McDonagh's pic wins Best Irish Feature Award

John Michael McDonagh’s “The Guard” scooped up the top Irish Feature Award at the 23rd edition of the Galway Film Fleadh, which wrapped Sunday.

Pic, which has been a fest circuit favorite since launching at Sundance in January, is produced by Element Pictures’ Andrew Lowe and Ed Guiney and Reprisal’s Chris Clark and Flora Fernandez Marengo.

The Galway-set film, which was released in Ireland on Thursday, the day after it screened at the Fleadh, had passed the €500,000 ($710,000) mark from just 81 prints in the territory by Sunday and is expected to reach €535,000 ($760,000) for the weekend, a strong perf for the pic.

Leila Doolan’s docu “Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey,” a docu on the life of Northern Irish political activist and MP Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who attended the fest, snapped up the Fleadh’s best feature docu award. First feature award went to joint winners: Darragh Byrne’s debut “Parked,” which opened the Fleadh on Tuesday and toplines Colm Meaney. Pic won alongside Terry McMahon’s “Charlie Casanova.”

“Parked,” which follows the story of a down-and-out man who lives in his car and forms an unlikely friendship with a 21-year-old pothead, is produced by Ripple World Pictures’ Jacqueline Kerrin and Dominic Wright.

McMahon helms and produces “Casanova,” which sees a high-class sociopath who uses a deck of playing cards to determine his fate after he kills a working class girl in a hit-and-run.

Kealan O’Rourke’s short toon “The Boy Who Lived in a Bubble,” produced by Brian Willis, was awarded the Intl. Federation of Film Societies Don Quixote award in addition to the James Horgan Award for animation.

Vincent Gallagher’s “Signs” nabbed the first animation award while the Tiernan McBride Award for short drama was jointly awarded to Tom Sullivan’s “Asal” and Phil Harrison’s “Even Gods.”

Peter McDonald’s “Pentecost” won for first short drama, while “Needle Exchange,” helmed by Colm Quinn, won for docu short, and Ruth Meehan snapped up the 30 Second Film Festival Judges Award.

The award for best cinematography in a short went to Michael Lavelle for “Mummy’s Little Helper.”

The latest edition of the Galway Film Fleadh, which continues to attract industryites from both sides of the Atlantic, was arguably its busiest edition to date.

Highlights from the Fleadh this year included Martin Sheen, a former resident in Galway, on hand for his pic “Stella Days,” which world-preemed on Saturday.

Pic, which sees Sheen play a parish priest in the County of Tipperary who attempts to reconcile his passion for film through the creation of the Stella Cinema, is helmed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Newgrange Pictures’ Jackie Larkin, Lesley McKimm and Maggie Pope produce while Paris-based Films Distribution handles international sales.

And ministers from both Ireland and Luxembourg descended upon the Fleadh to ink their first co-production treaty between the two countries, which will enable both to benefit from joint access to the government’s incentives and subsidies.

Commenting on the Fleadh and the treaty, newly appointed Irish Film Board chief exec James Hickey told Variety that the treaty was a strong step forwarded in expanding more co-production opportunities for Irish filmmakers.

“The Galway Film Fleadh has developed a strong reputation as a hub for getting European co-production activity off the ground, and it is a fitting location to sign this new co-production treaty between Ireland and Luxembourg,” Hickey said. “I’m grateful to my colleague Guy Daleiden in Film Fund Luxembourg for all of the work that he has done in bringing this co-production treaty to fruition.”

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