CANNES — The Irish Film and Television Academy has revealed its Rising Star Award nominees, who are writer-directors Rebecca Daly, Alex Fegan and Stephen Fingleton, and actor Barry Ward. The winner will be announced at the IFTA Film and Drama Awards ceremony on April 9.
The award, sponsored by the Irish Film Board, puts a spotlight on Irish professionals who have “not only honed their crafts in the formative years of their career, but who have also excelled in their respective fields.” Previous recipients include Saoirse Ronan, Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, John Michael McDonagh and Jamie Dornan.
Daly made her feature debut “The Other Side of Sleep,” written with Glenn Montgomery and starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, in 2011. The film was selected for the Cannes Résidence du Festival and premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.
She followed that with the “powerful and morally complex” feature “Mammal,” starring Rachel Griffiths in the lead role alongside up-and-coming Irish actor Barry Keoghan. It made its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Variety described it as an “elegant, elliptical character study of a shuttered divorcee and a feral delinquent.”
Fegan’s 2009 no-budget sci-fi feature called “Man Made Men” premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh to rave reviews. His debut feature documentary “The Irish Pub” secured a general release in cinemas across Ireland in 2014, and played in 2015 on Irish TV channel RTE One, and the History Channel in Australia and New Zealand, and sold to Netflix.
In 2015, Fegan directed “Older Than Ireland,” which looks at the lives of 30 people in Ireland aged 100 years of age or older. The film won best Irish documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh, and he was nominated for the Bingham Ray New Talent Award. It was picked up by Element Pictures Distribution and went on theatrical release in September, becoming one of Ireland’s most successful documentaries of all time.
Northern Irish writer/director Stephen Fingleton’s screenplay for “The Survivalist” was voted by Hollywood film executives onto the Black List and topped the U.K. equivalent, the Brit List, for the year’s best unproduced scripts in 2013.
“The Survivalist” premiered last year at the Tribeca Film Festival to critical praise. Fingleton won a special jury mention in Tribeca’s best new narrative director category, a British Independent Film Award for debut feature, and the Citizen Kane award for new director from the Sitges Film Festival. He was nominated for an outstanding debut by BAFTA as well as being recognized as a BAFTA Breakthrough Talent. The film has been nominated for four IFTA Awards, including film and director.
Ward began his career at the age of 14 in Roddy Doyle’s BBC drama “Family,” and by the age of 16 he had completed a BBC six-part series “Plotlands.” His first feature, “Sunburn,” shot in the U.S., featuring Cillian Murphy. Eclectic roles across film and television followed including “The Claim” (opposite Peter Mullan), “Watchmen” (opposite Murphy) and “City of Vice” (opposite James McEvoy).
A big break for Ward came in 2013 when he was cast in the lead role in Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall.” Ward received rave reviews for his performance as Jimmy Gralton in the period drama, which premiered at Tribeca 2013 and went on to screen in cinemas around the world.
This year Ward has had starring roles in three television and film projects, and cemented his status as one of Ireland’s rising stars. In Paul Mercier’s “Pursuit,” an adaptation of Irish classic “Diarmuid and Grainne,” Ward took the lead in the film opposite Ruth Bradley, with a cast that also included Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham. In RTÉ drama series “Rebellion,” Ward was one of five leads playing soldier Arthur Mahon opposite Ruth Bradley, Brian Gleeson, Charlie Murphy, and last year’s Rising Star winner, Sarah Greene. In Declan Recks’ political thriller “The Truth Commissioner,” which received an Irish cinema release as well as being broadcast on BBC in the U.K., Ward played ex-IRA man Michael Madden opposite Roger Allam, Simone Kirby and Sean McGinley.