Irish language film Arracht has been chosen by IFTA as Ireland's Oscar contender for Best International Film.

The selection committee includes director Lenny Abrahamson, actor Ciarán Hinds, composer and the first female conductor at the Oscars Eímear Noone, producer Macdara Kelleher, actress Fionnula Flanagan and David Flynn from Paramount TV.

The Committee was chaired by Irish Film and Television Academy CEO Áine Moriarty, who said: "What an honour 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.

"Dónall Ó Héalai’s brilliant and poignant central performance brings a gothic humanity to the storytelling that will resonate with audiences of any language."

The Oscar Best International Film contenders will next be shortlisted to 10 international finalists which will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final 5 Oscar Nominees in that category. The Oscar ceremony was originally scheduled for 28 February, 2021, but has been moved to 25 April, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Arracht, which is told almost entirely in the Irish Language, is a moving and inspiring story set in 1845 on the eve of The Great Hunger.

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Fisherman Colmán Sharkey (Dónall Ó Héalai) takes in a stranger at the behest of a local priest. Patsy (Dara Devaney), 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.

Written and directed by Tom Sullivan, Arracht won two awards (Best Sound, Best Original Music) at this year's virtual IFTA ceremony.

"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," said Sullivan.

"This is recognition of the team's work and dedication and to be considered on this level is a huge honour 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.

"Thank you to our funders Screen Ireland, BAI, and TG4 and thank you IFTA for all your support."

The film stars Dónall Ó Héalai who is a 'Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2020', alongside Dara Devaney, Michael McElhatton, and newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn.

Arracht is due for release in Irish cinemas in Spring 2021.

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