Parasite kicked down the door for foreign films in Hollywood, Irish director says

James Ward, PA
·3-min read

Parasite has kicked down the door for foreign films in Hollywood, according to the director of Oscar-tipped Irish language famine film Arracht.

The Korean movie Parasite wowed audiences and made history when it scooped four Academy Awards, becoming the first non-English film to win Best Picture in the process.

Writer-director Tom Sullivan, whose next work has been put forward as Ireland’s candidate for Best International Film at the 2021 Oscars, believes its success has boosted interest in foreign language films.

He said: “Parasite kicked a lot of doors down and got a lot of people who would not have normally considered watching foreign language films to watch them.

“I think, Jesus, wouldn’t it be great if people were more open to watching films from all over the world, as opposed to that small pool of American films that most of us, myself included, watch?

“I think you know we can all we can all do it open broadening our horizons a little bit.”

Arracht, written and directed by Tom Sullivan, will be put forward as Ireland’s candidate for Best International Picture at the 2021 Oscars (Arracht/Macalla Teo/PA)

Arracht, which translates as Monster, was filmed entirely in Irish in Connemara on the barren west coast.

Set in 1845, on the eve of the great famine, it follows fisherman Colman Sharkey (Donall O Healai), who takes a stranger into his home at the behest of a local priest, just as the potato blight arrives that will lead to the death and displacement of millions.

It is a seminal moment in Irish history that, unusually, has rarely been depicted on the silver screen.

Tom Sullivan is all too aware of this, revealing that he was warned by a top Irish director “Don’t f*** it up.”

He said: “I mentioned it to a well known director, who I won’t mention now.

“He’s pretty famous and he’s an Irish director.

“I was talking to him one day, I just bumped into him.

“And I told him what I was doing, that it was a film centred on the famine.

“And his response was ‘Oh, risky, don’t f*** it up’.”

Sullivan continued: “I don’t know, I think there’s trepidation or fear of trying to tackle something so sacred.

“There’s an awful lot that goes unsaid about the famine and I think it’s the same with any trauma.

“I think as a nation we’re traumatised.

“I think we’re all learning, we’re all in therapy now learning to deal with the famine and the films that are going to come out.

“I think you’re gonna see more ways of us dealing with this and talking about it, I think it’s time.”

Arracht was chosen by the Irish Film and Television Academy as the country’s candidate for Best International Film.

Donall O Healai as Coleman Sharkey in Tom Sullivan’s famine epic Arracht (Arracht/Macalla Teo/PA)

The judging panel included acclaimed Normal People director Lenny Abrahamson and actor Ciaran Hinds.

Arracht will be included in a longlist which will then be narrowed down to just five nominees, based on the votes of Academy members and directors.

Despite the odds being against him, Sullivan is grateful for the recognition he has received for his first feature film.

He said: “Either way it’s great recognition and it’ll ensure that a lot more people see the film.”