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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
November 29, 2006
Wind That Shakes the Barley Opens Mid March 2007
A St. Patrick's Day Push for 'Wind That Shakes the Barley'
A mid-March release in U.S. means the award-winning film,
set against the Irish freedom struggle, will miss the '07
By Gerry Regan / TheWildGeese.com
NEW YORK – The highly acclaimed film "The Wind That Shakes
the Barley" will be on the sidelines for Oscar next year,
not even hitting U.S. screens till mid-March.
The production, set against Ireland's War of Independence
and Civil War, will open in Los Angeles and New York, and
possibly other major markets, too late to be eligible for
Oscar consideration in 2007.
"Barley," which won the Cannes Film Festival's Palme D'Or
in May as the festival's best picture, was helmed by
British director Ken Loach. The film begins in 1920, and
stars Cillian Murphy as Damien, a medical student and
native of County Cork. After witnessing a murder by the
British paramilitary "Black and Tans" while home, Damien
joins the local contingent of the IRA with his brother,
Teddy (Padraic Delaney), setting the plot in motion.
U.S. distributor IFC Entertainment's decision to release
the film in mid-March means "Barley" will bypass the
hoopla, along with the hundreds of thousands, if not
millions, of dollars, involved in pushing a film for the
world's most prestigious film honor. Murphy will thus miss
a chance for Oscar for another year, disappointing those
who thought his work in Neil Jordan's 2005 film "Breakfast
on Pluto" also was Oscar worthy.
Murphy, 30, was born in Douglas, County Cork, and "Barley"
was filmed in the county in 2005, from April into July, in
Timoleague and environs. The film opened in the United
Kingdom and Ireland in June.
"We love this movie," said IFC Films VP Publicity Michelle
Panzer, explaining the decision to forego even a limited
release in Los Angeles this year to make "Barley" eligible
for next year's Oscars. "The right thing for the film is
opening at a time when the talent is available (to promote
it) ... when we can promote the film in a strong and
responsible manner. It would be lost in the marketplace.
Winter is the most competitive time for opening a film. "
Among its criteria for eligibility for an Oscar, the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires that a
movie must open in a commercial theater, for paid
admission, in Los Angeles County in the year before the
award ceremony, and run for seven days. Under current
release plans then, "Barley" will be eligible for the
Academy Awards in 2008, Panzer said. The 2007 Oscar
telecast occurs on Sunday, Feb. 25.
Rebecca O'Brien, the producer of "Barley," addressed the
film's ineligibility for the '07 Oscars, saying via e-mail,
"We've already won the only prize that European and world
filmmakers truly covet (the Palme d'Or), so why try and
compete with the majors (studios) at something they are
much better at.
"I'm satisfied that (IFC) will give our film the best
release possible. We decided to go with IFC as we wanted
people who were real fans of our work and would give the
film the strategic specialized handling it requires."
O'Brien gave March 14 as the launch date — "in time for St.
Patrick's Day," but IFC executives were less certain.
Either March 14 or March 16 is "99.9%" likely for the U.S.
release, in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and
perhaps other top metro markets, IFC's Panzer said. IFC
plans a "traditional platform release across the country, "
she added. This could ultimately entail release in 20 or
more markets, but, depending on the film's drawing power,
these plans could change, Panzer said.
The film's delay in reaching the United States, O'Brien
said, is typical of "films made without U.S. financing, as
the legal side of delivery is far more complex than in
other territories." Distributors in other countries had
pre-bought the film or are regular customers, she said,
making negotiations "quicker and simpler."
IFC Entertainment is distributing the film via its IFC
First Take scheme, in which the film is released
simultaneously in theaters and via cable operators Comcast
and Cablevision "on demand." With this, IFC's Panzer said,
"14 million people get to see these foreign language or
small independent films across America." Those numbers
could double by the time "Barley" is released, she said,
with the addition of new cable operators. A film viewer's
cost for on-demand is in the $6 range, she said.
A call to fellow Britishers to 'confront their imperial
"Barley" is the newest film by Loach, who earlier portrayed
cover-ups by British authorities in 1980s Northern Ireland
in "Hidden Agenda" (1990). "Hidden Agenda" earned $1.03
million in U.S. box office, the highest in the U.S. of any
of his films, according to IMDB.com. Loach's films have
never received an Oscar nomination, though they've gained
60 other awards and 38 nominations during his 45-year-long
Courtesy of Sixteen Films
Ken Loach on location in Cork
Loach, 70, born in Warwickshire, is an ardent socialist. He
reputedly refused the offer of an OBE (Order of the British
Empire) in the 1970s. Tory M.P. Ivan Stanbrook, back in the
day, described "Hidden Agenda" as "the IRA entry at
After his win in Cannes in May, Loach told reporters he
hoped his film would encourage his countrymen to "confront
their imperial history. And maybe, if we tell the truth
about the past, maybe we tell the truth about the present."
Film critic Peter Bradshaw, writing June 23 in The
Guardian, wrote about "Barley": "It is not Loach's best
film, but it is a fine and powerful drama, with relevant
things to say about what happens when an occupying force
withdraws. ... It is not simply a denunciation of British
beastliness, but an evocation of the futility and
fratricidal despair Ireland encountered and somehow even
embraced on attaining self-government."
There have been rumors that Loach's film was edited for
release in the United Kingdom to soften its portrayal of
British brutality, but this O'Brien emphatically denied.
"There are NO alternative versions of the film — absolutely
not," she said.
Some commentators, Irish as well as British, responded to
"Barley" with vitriol aimed at Loach. In a May 30 article
in The Daily Mail, Dublin-born writer Ruth Dudley Edward
described "Barley" as "a travesty of history" and wrote of
Loach "… what is truth in the hands of this Marxist
While lambasting Loach's film, Michael Grove referred also
to Michael Moore's anti-war film "Fahrenheit 911," when he
wrote in The Times of London on May 31, "The judges in
Cannes have shown that they enjoy rewarding directors who
rubbish their own countries, and that enjoyment is all the
greater when the countries being rubbished are America or
The criticism seems to have backfired as within six weeks
of the film's release "Barley" rose to No. 2 in London box
office. By October, according to published figures,
"Barley" ranked #3 overall in the UK among British-made
films with a gross of £3.65 million (about $7 million),
while its 2.7 million euros ($3.5 million) takings in
Ireland have made it the highest grossing independent Irish
film of all time. Still, IFC VP Marketing Ryan Werner
suggested in an Aug. 17 article in The Hollywood Reporter
that success of Loach's films overseas had not translated
into significant U.S. box office.
"Barley" opened on 105 of the UK's 3,486 screens on June
23, more than any other Loach film, according to IMDB.com.
There are 328 screens in 64 cinema sites in the Republic of
Ireland, according to a 2004 report commissioned by the
Arts Council of Ireland.
The film's budget was reportedly about $8 million, and DVD
sales are underway in the UK and Irish markets, with sales
ranked No. 57 on Amazon's UK site Nov. 22. (Neil Jordan's
film "Michael Collins" (1996) ranked No. 1,075 in sales on
the site, and "Breakfast on Pluto" No. 1,875.) "Barley"
thus seems already assured of turning a profit.
"Barley" is in the running for nine more awards, gaining
four nominations for the British Independent Film Awards
and five for the European Film Awards, including one for
the film's screenplay, by longtime Loach collaborator Paul
With additional reporting by Patricia Jameson-Sammartano in
New York and Kieron C. Punch in Coventry, United Kingdom.
Honor The Rebels Who Shook The Empire—
Buy Merchandise from WGT's '16 Rising Shop
Click on image for larger view.
Before the events that inspired "The Wind That Shakes the
Barley," a group of Irishmen, and women, rattled the
greatest Empire the world has ever seen — to its very core
during the "Easter Rising" in 1916. Though they did not
gain Ireland's freedom, they launched the war
that did. WGT commemorates Pearse, Connolly and other
leaders of 1916 with our "Heroes of the Easter Rising"
store. Items you can display with pride, this merchandise
is available only from WGT's Shops