The film is set in 1845 on the eve of the Irish famine. Fisherman Colmán Sharkey takes in a stranger at the behest of a local priest. Patsy, a former soldier in the Napoleonic wars, arrives just ahead of “the blight” that eventually wipes out the country’s potato crop, leading to the death and displacement of millions. Patsy’s subsequent actions set Colmán on a path that will take him to the edge of survival, and sanity, until he encounters an abandoned young girl who gives him a reason to live. But Colmán cannot escape the darkness of his past.
The film stars Dónall Ó Héalai, alongside Dara Devaney, Michael McElhatton, and newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn.
The film world premiered at the 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and won two Irish Academy Awards at this year’s virtual IFTA ceremony.
The film was selected by IFTA’s 2020 selection committee, including director Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”), actor Ciarán Hinds (“Munich”), composer and the first female conductor at the Oscars, Eímear Noone (“Mozart in the Jungle”), producer Macdara Kelleher (“Foundation”), actor Fionnula Flanagan (“The Guard”) and David Flynn, executive vice president of international strategy at Paramount TV. The committee was chaired by Academy CEO Áine Moriarty.
“What an honor to have Tom Sullivan’s remarkable film ‘Arracht’ represent Ireland, with its powerful and striking cinematic visual from DOP Kate McCullough, who brings the audience into the heart of Ireland’s famine history,” Moriarty said. “Dónall Ó Héalai’s brilliant and poignant central performance brings a gothic humanity to the storytelling that will resonate with audiences of any language.”
Tom Sullivan, writer/director of “Arracht,” said: “I am overjoyed with the news that ‘Arracht’ has been chosen by the IFTA selection committee to represent Ireland in the Oscar’s best international film category. This is recognition of the team’s work and dedication and to be considered on this level is a huge honor and beyond exciting. It’s been a funny old year to be in the film business but the support ‘Arracht’ has received from everyone has really kept us going.”
“Arracht” was produced by Cúán Mac Conghail for Macalla Teoranta, with executive producers Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell of Fantastic Films. It was supported by Screen Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and TG4 as part of the Cine 4 scheme, a new initiative to develop original feature films in the Irish language. It is distributed in Ireland by Break Out Pictures, with a theatrical release scheduled for Spring 2021.
The 93rd Academy Awards will take place on April 25, 2021.