31st March 2016 Alex Fegan, Rebecca Daly, Stephen Fingleton and Barry Ward

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB) and the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) are delighted to announce the Rising Star Award nominees for 2016, the winner of which will be announced at the IFTA Film & Drama Awards ceremony on Saturday, April 9.

Selected by a special jury and sponsored by the IFB, the Rising Star Award is a unique IFTA Award in that it puts an international 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.

The 2016 nominees are:

Rebecca Daly, the writer/director who has delivered on the promise shown in her 2011 debut The Other Side of Sleep by making the powerful and morally complex 2016 feature Mammal; Alex Fegan, the filmmaker behind acclaimed, stimulating and relevant documentaries such as The Irish Pub and Older Than Ireland in recent years; Stephen Fingleton, who this year graduated from lauded short films (SLR, Magpie) to mesmerising feature films with his enthralling debut The Survivalist; and Barry Ward, the actor whose glittering portfolio continues to grow every year. After a starring role in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall in 2014, his career has continued to flourish with critically praised roles in Paul Mercier’s Pursuit, Declan Recks’ political thriller The Truth Commissioner and RTÉ drama series Rebellion.

Previous recipients of the Rising Star Award include Saoirse Ronan, Michael Fassbender, Tomm Moore, Domhnall Gleeson, John Michael McDonagh, Gerard Barrett, Jamie Dornan and Sarah Greene, all of whom have went on to garner recognition and accolades both in Ireland and internationally. Both Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) have received Oscar and IFTA nominations in 2016, while Domhnall Gleeson (Brooklyn, Ex Machina) and Sarah Greene (Rebellion, Penny Dreadful) are eminent dual IFTA nominees this year. Tomm Moore’s animated feature Song of the Sea was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 and won the IFTA for Best Film while filmmakers John Michael McDonagh (War on Everyone) and Gerard Barrett (Brain on Fire) as well as actor Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Jadotville) have major international films due for release in 2016.

Áine Moriarty, Chief Executive of the Irish Film and Television Academy said:

“This important Award showcases four superb Irish talents who have proved themselves to be world class professionals in their fields and leading Irish creative professionals to spearhead and continue Ireland’s golden era of filmmaking into the future. IFTA is proud to showcase Ireland’s Rising Stars and acknowledges the partnership with the Irish Film Board across this Award supporting new Irish industry talent.”

James Hickey of Bord Scannán na hÉireann /the Irish Film Board (IFB) said of the Award:

"Supporting up and coming talent is the cornerstone in the development of the Irish film industry. We provide funding across a wide range of films which ultimately creates opportunities for Irish writers, directors and cast to work on Irish films in Ireland. We are delighted to support the IFTA Rising Star Award and look forward to working with this year's nominees in the future."

About the 2016 Rising Star Nominees

Rebecca Daly – Writer/Director (Mammal)

Following a BA in Drama and English and an MA in Film, Daly directed her first short film, Joyriders, in 2006. The short, telling the story a grieving ten year old discovering that imagination can be more powerful than reality, was written with Glenn Montgomery and instantly cemented Daly as a filmmaker to watch in Ireland. It went on to win the IFTA for Best Short in 2007.

Following another acclaimed short film entitled Hum (selected and funded as one of the finalists for the Berlin Today Award 2010), Daly made her feature film debut with The Other Side of Sleep in 2011. The film, once again written with Montgomery and starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, was selected for the Cannes Résidence du Festival and premiered in the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. It received critical notice from major publications such as Screen International who wrote: “Daly’s haunting debut flirts with dreams and reality; it is under-stated yet powerfully etched.”

Daly followed this up with yet another powerfully artistic film that received widespread acclaim. Mammal, starring Oscar nominee Rachel Griffiths in the lead role alongside up and coming Irish actor Barry Keoghan, made its’ debut at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and received a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. The film was hailed by international publications such as Variety who described it as an “elegant, elliptical character study of a shuttered divorcee and a feral delinquent”.

Alex Fegan – Writer/Director (Older Than Ireland)

Harbouring a love for film since he was a child, Alex Fegan wrote, directed, produced, filmed and edited a no-budget sci-fi feature called Man Made Men in 2009. The film surprised everyone at its premiere in the Galway Film Fleadh and received rave reviews. It went on to win Best Foreign Feature at The Arizona International Film Festival among other festivals.

Next came a short period drama called The Court Astronomer starring John Kavanagh (Braveheart) and Gerry O’Brien (Pirates of the Caribbean) which was again very successful at festivals before Fegan made The Irish Pub - his first feature documentary.

Shot, directed and edited by Fegan, The Irish Pub was a resounding success and secured a general release in cinemas throughout Ireland in 2014. The widely acclaimed documentary has since gone on to win numerous awards and a cinema release in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in October 2014. In July 2015, it played on RTE One to extremely positive ratings and it also played on the History Channel in Australia and New Zealand and has also sold to Netflix, where it will be made available in 2016.

In early 2015, Fegan directed and edited Older Than Ireland, which looks at the lives of 30 people in Ireland aged 100 years of age or older. The film, which is funded by The Irish Film Board, won Best Irish Documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh and Alex was also nominated for the Bingham Ray New Talent Award. It also won the Irish Times Ticket Award for Best Documentary of 2015. In July, it was picked up by Element Pictures Distribution and went on general release on the 25th September 2015 becoming one of Ireland’s most successful documentaries of all time.

Stephen Fingleton – Writer/Director (The Survivalist)

Northern Irish writer/director Stephen Fingleton studied English Literature at University College London and began shooting his first films with the UCLU Film Society, whose alumni include Christopher Nolan. After he graduated Stephen wrote scripts and made guerrilla short films – including Shirin and Driver - while working outside the industry.

His big break came when his screenplay for The Survivalist was voted by executives onto Hollywood’s “Black List” and topped the UK “Brit List” for the year’s best unproduced scripts in 2013. That same year he was selected by Screen Daily as a Star of Tomorrow, and was one of 16 filmmakers chosen for the BFI Lighthouse short film scheme which funded his film SLR. The film was shortlisted for an Academy Award and has been viewed 400,000 times online so far.

The Survivalist premiered in 2015 at the Tribeca Film Festival to critical praise. For writing and directing the film, Fingleton won a Special Jury Mention in the Best New Narrative Director Category, a Moët BIFA Award for Best Debut Feature (the prestigious Douglas Hickox prize) and the Citizen Kane award for Best New Director from the Sitges Film Festival. Stephen was also named nominated for an Outstanding Debut by BAFTA as well as being recognized as a BAFTA Breakthrough talent. The Survivalist went on to be nominated for four IFTA Awards, including Best Film and Best Director for Fingleton.

Barry Ward – Actor (Pursuit, Rebellion, The Truth Commissioner, Jimmy’s Hall)

Barry Ward began his career at age 14 in Roddy Doyle`s highly acclaimed BBC drama, Family and by the age of 16 he had completed a BBC six-part series Plotlands. An award-winning Irish language short called Lipservice followed and soon after came 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 Cillian Murphy) and City of Vice (opposite James McEvoy). His theatre credits include highly acclaimed productions of The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Translations, The Plough and the Stars, Lay Me Down Softly, Whistle In The Dark, and Down the Line at the Abbey Theatre.

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 to acclaim at Tribeca 2013 and went on to screen in cinemas around the world.

In undoubtedly the busiest year of his career so far, 2016 saw Ward take starring roles in three acclaimed 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 UK – Ward played ex-IRA man Michael Madden opposite Roger Allam, Simone Kirby and Sean McGinley.

The IFTA Film & Drama Awards will take place at the Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin on Saturday, April 9. The ceremony will be broadcast on TV3 on Sunday, April 10th at 9pm.