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Could Ireland win an Oscar tonight?

We have nine nominees in the running.

THERE IS ALWAYS something special about the Oscars, the biggest awards ceremony in the film world.

But it’s even more special for us when there are Irish names up to win a gold statuette.

To those in the Irish film industry, January 14 2016 was a landmark day for Irish cinema – a day when our small country was given a record nine Oscar nominations.

Tonight could be another defining moment for Irish cinema, on par with when My Left Foot won its two major Oscars.

BAFTA Film Awards 2016 - Arrivals - London PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

As a refresher, here are the Irish nominees tonight:

  • Lenny Abrahamson: Nominated for Best Director for Room, which got a nomination for Best Film, while its lead actor Brie Larson was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
  • Emma Donoghue: Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Room
  • Saoirse Ronan: nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, while the film itself, Brooklyn, got a nomination for Best Film, and its screenwriter Nick Hornby was nominated for his work.
  • Michael Fassbender: Nominated for Best Actor for his role in Steve Jobs.
  • Benjamin Cleary: Irish director nominated for his short film, Stutterer.

Do we stand a chance of winning any of these awards?

It’s all in the academy’s hands, but generally you can get a feel for who will win some of the bigger awards.

Unfortunately, a look at the odds shows that bookies don’t think Ireland is in with a major chance of winning best picture, best director or best actor – but Lenny Abrahamson’s Room could see a winner in the shape of lead actor Brie Larson.

She’s already won a Golden Globe, Bafta and Screen Actors Guild Award, so it looks like she’s in with a serious chance.

Still, there is always the chance that the bookies have got it wrong – and there will always be surprise winners at the Oscars.

Opening doors

download (5) Paddy Breathnach, Treasure Entertainment, Director of Viva; Lenny Abrahamson, Director, Room; and James Hickey, Chief Executive, Irish Film Board

Regardless of whether we walk away with any statuettes tonight, it won’t be a loss for Ireland if we only get as far as the nominations. It’s anticipated that 950 million people will tune in to watch the awards – that’s a lot of eyes on Irish nominees.

The focus on Oscar nominees is considerable. More doors will be opened for the likes of Abrahamson, Donoghue and Cleary than they perhaps could have imagined (Abrahamson recently spoke about meeting with Steven Spielberg, for example).

Fassbender and Ronan, meanwhile, have already claimed their place among the Hollywood elite.

As Irish director Paddy Breathnach told us in an interview: “For better or worse, you put the word ‘Oscar’ in relation to your film and suddenly everybody pays attention.” His film, Viva, narrowly missed out on the Best Picture in a Foreign Language nomination, but it has benefited from being mentioned in the same breath as the Oscars.

Chief Executive of the Irish Film Board James Hickey has been in Los Angeles all week promoting Irish filmmaking talent and Ireland as an “international hub for creativity and innovation”.

The IFB joined up with IDA Ireland to hold a series of meeting with US film industry players in order to capitalise on the current attention.

“Everyone associated with the nine Irish Oscar nominations are already winners,” said Hickey.

They are all world-class players who have been recognised for their talent in the most prestigious of film awards. Behind each nomination is a team of talent who should be justifiably proud, irrespective of the final outcome at the awards.

Variety has already hailed Ireland as a ‘capital of filmmaking’.

download (4)

Notably, all of this occurs in a climate where funding for Irish film has been dropping in recent years. It’s down 40% since 2008, from €20m to around €11m currently.

Dr Annie Doona, Acting Chair of the Irish Film Board, said recently that “the projects that are enjoying international acclaim today have been in the pipeline for a number of years”.

But the Irish Film Board has a problem: in five years’ time we won’t have the same level of success unless our funding for the sector is restored to previous levels.

The IFB put in a call for more funding for the sector, with Doona saying:

The message to Government is quite clear: We have done a fantastic job, the industry is thriving, the talent is developing but we really need funding support now to enable more films to be made and Ireland to be greater on the world stage. With more we can do more.

The big takeaway from all this? Irish creatives have the talent – but they need the support. And yet, even without masses of funding, through hard graft people have clawed their way to the top.

It’s inspirational to see what can be achieved, but it’s also important that creativity is taken seriously. It takes more than just a good idea to make a film.

As Grainne Humphreys, director of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival told us, the current crop of films is a culmination of years of work, experience and learning.

It’s in a funny way like the tide has come in. It’s not just individual moments, it’s like there’s a broader feeling of movement.

To have the words ”Oscar-nominated” before your name can change your career trajectory.

It’s up to the nominees to be able to capitalise on that – although luck and timing can also play a huge part – but at the same time, it’s also true that to be considered great, work doesn’t have to receive an Oscar nod.

How do you think Ireland will do at the Oscars? Tell us in the comments.

The 88th Oscars will be hosted by comedian Chris Rock tonight at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Read: “It’s beyond all our wildest dreams”: Landmark day for Irish cinema with nine Oscar nominations>

Read: This Irish director’s film just scooped four Oscar nominations>

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