Northern Ireland talent shines in 2018 BAFTA nominations

Local actors and more could be sharing in the success at this year's prestigious event as the awards season kicks off

The start of a new year always goes hand in hand with film and TV awards season – a time to take stock of everything that's busied our screens over the previous 12 months and will continue to fill our viewing schedules for months to come.

More importantly however it's when the industry pauses to recognise the talent that has shone the brightest, and in this sense Northern Ireland has never been short on involvement in decorated productions, whether it's through actors or artists whose skills lie off camera.

While much of the focus of this year's BAFTA Film awards will centre around the likes of Guillermo Del Toro’s latest The Shape of Water and Martin McDonagh's much talked-about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, as well as Joanna Lumley who replaces Stephen Fry as host after 12 years, there are still a few of our own who hope to share in the success come February 18 in London.

Most notably is veteran Belfast-born actor Lalor Roddy, who takes centre stage as the lead in the 11 minute long Wren Boys. Nominated for Best British Short, the film casts Roddy as a Catholic priest from Cork who drives his nephew to prison on the day after Christmas. Wren Boys has already taken home the London Calling Short Film Jury Prize as well as the award for Best Short Film at the UK Film Festival.

The film's title comes from a tradition in certain parts of Ireland pre-dating Christmas, when on Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day a wren would be captured and paraded through towns and villages, with accompanying music and partipants dressed in flamboyant costumes comprised of straw, facepaint and masks. The crowds would sometimes be referred to as wrenboys.

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Upon news of the latest nod, the film's team tweeted: 'Particularly proud of our all star Irish cast Lalor Roddy, Diarmuid Noyes, Fionn Walton, Carrie Baxter and Billy Clarke on the @BAFTA news. Their combined outstanding performances made this film what it is!'

Roddy first arrived into acting relatively late, when he performed as Gandalf in a youth theatre production of The Hobbit at the age of 33. Since then however he's gone on to have a remarkable career of roles both at home and oversees, on stage and on screen – big and small. Highlights include separate stints with the Royal Shakespeare Company, his work with the Abbey Theatre which saw him cast in Frank McGuinness’s Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme and win ESB/Irish Times Award for Best Supporting Actor for his part in In a Little World of Our Own, and a hot streak with companies like Tinderbox and Prime Cut back in Belfast. Fintan O'Toole would once proclaim as perhaps the finest Irish actor of his generation.

Elsewhere boxing drama Jawbone, which stars Holywood man Michael Smiley alongside Brit-flick heavyweights Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, is up for Outstanding Debut. The bruising drama, soundtracked by Paul Weller no less, features Smiley as coach of a former youth boxing champion, who returns to his childhood club in the hope of regaining his glory. It's been described as both 'brutal' and 'poignant', and sees the funnyman who to many will always be drug-distributing cyclist Tyres from Spaced, in a quietly moving turn.

'I’m so proud @Jawbonethemovie has been nominated for a @BAFTA,' he tweeted. 'Congratulations to Johnny Harris & @macnapper for their inspiring work'.

Meanwhile, away from the camera lens, editor Nick Emerson will be delighted at the prospect of another accolade for Lady Macbeth. Adapted from the 1865 novella by Nikolai Leskov, the film first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 and has already amassed an impressive array of awards recognising everything from its actors' performances and screenplay down to its costume design. The 2018 BAFTA for Outstanding British Film would surely be a proud achievement to share in for Emerson, whose work brought an undeniable flair to Terri Hooley biopic Good Vibrations.

Let's hope it's just the beginning of a glittering year for local creatives lighting up our cinemas and beyond. To view the full list of BAFTA nominees go to www.bafta.org.