The phrase “Ireland punches above its weight” is bandied about a rate of knots but this is undoubtedly true when it comes to Ireland’s ever booming film industry. That’s undeniably true when you look at the stellar lineup of films en route to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this September.

The TIFF has been running since 1976 and is regarded as the most important film festival in the world — the largest, the most influential, the most inclusive. It is THE place to be for movie makers and a big deal to selected. This year Ireland has an unprecedented eight movies on the program.

These are the Irish movies to keep an eye out for in the coming year.

Here’s a rundown of the Irish movies at TIFF this year:

Handsome Devil

Handsome Devil was directed by John Butler (The Stag) and produced by Rebecca O'Flanagan and Rob Walpole for Treasure Entertainment. The cast Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Moe Dunford (Vikings), Amy Huberman (The Stag), Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones), Fionn O'Shea (The Siege of Jadotville) and Nick Galitzine. The film was selected for the Contemporary World Cinema strand of the program.

Handsome Devil is set in a privileged boys' boarding school in Ireland. Ned and Conor are forced to share a bedroom at their boarding school. The loner and the macho athlete at this rugby-mad school form an unlikely friendship, until the authorities test it. Former Ireland and Lions rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll was on set last summer to choreograph some of the rugby scenes.

Brain on Fire

This movie takes a look at a young New York woman's rapid descent into insanity. Brain on Fire is based on the biography of Susannah Cahalan, a journalist at the New York Post, who has serious health issues, including seizures and hearing voices. Over the a few weeks her condition worsens and she quickly goes from violence to catatonia. After numerous misdiagnoses and a hospitalization, a doctor gives her a diagnosis with the hope she can rebuild her life. One day Cahalan wakes up in the hospital with no memory at all of her previous month.

The upcoming biographical drama is an American-Canadian-Irish collaboration. With Chloe Grace Moretz (The Amityville Horror) in the lead role, Brain on Fire also stars Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) and Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl). Charlize Theron is an Executive Producer on the film.

Without Name

Week 2 down #withoutnamefilm

— Lorcan Finnegan (@lorcanfinnegan) April 5, 2015
Without Name is directed by Lorcan Finnegan and starring Alan McKenna and up-and-coming Irish actress Niamh Algar. The film follows a land surveyor who loses his reason in a supernatural environment that defies all boundaries.

It will have its world premiere at the TIFF. The movie was produced as part of the Irish Film Board initiative Catalyst Project, Without Name is written by Garret Shanley and produced by Brunella Cocchiglia. The film has been announced to screen as part of the Vanguard section at the festival, which focuses on emerging directors and auteurs of tomorrow.

Keep up-to-date with Irish movie news here 

Forever Pure

Forever Pure tells the story of Jerusalem's Beitar football club which became a flashpoint for controversy in 2012 when the signing of two Muslim players brought down the racist wrath of the team's long-time fans.

The movie is produced by Alan Maher in Roads Entertainment and directed by Maya Zinshtein.

Second to None

SECOND TO NONE TRAILER from Vincent G on Vimeo.

Written and directed by Vincent Gallagher and produced by Damian Farrell, Second to None had its world premiere at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh where it picked up both the James Horgan Award for Best Animated Short and the Don Quijote Award for Best Animation. The former is Academy Award Qualifying, which sees Second To None in consideration for the 2017 Oscars in the short film (animated) category.

The Secret Scripture

Jim Sheridan's new film The Secret Scripture which stars Rooney Mara (Carol), Vanessa Redgrave (Mission Impossible), Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) will have its world premiere at the festival.

The film tells the story of Lady Rose, an elderly woman who reveals her story of extraordinary love and great injustice - the story of a remarkable young woman of courage whose only crime was to fall in love.

Commenting on the selection director Jim Sheridan said "It was so good to be back home to make this film. I loved bringing Sebastian Barry's moving novel to the big screen and I feel honored for the freedom he gave me. Irish novels and stories are loved by people all over the world. Like Robbie Brady, I hope we can hit the back of the net with this one, like Room and Brooklyn did. Fingers crossed. I'm also delighted to have a chance to bring the amazing cast back together for the world premiere."

Produced by Ferndale Films, The Secret Scripture filmed on location in Dublin and Kilkenny with some scenes shot on Dollymount Strand and Portrane Beach.

Here are some photos taken during production:


#MongrelTIFF SPOTLIGHT: #Maudie Academy Award® nominees Sally Hawkins & Ethan Hawke #TIFF16

— Mongrel Media (@MongrelMedia) August 18, 2016
Maudie will have a gala presentation at the festival and tell the unlikely love story of folk artist Maudie Lewis. Maudie is an unlikely love story in which a curmudgeonly miser hires a tiny disfigured woman to be his housekeeper, who becomes a well-loved folk artist. The film was produced by Parallel Films which previously produced Brooklyn and The Siege of Jadoville.

Commenting on the selection director Aisling Walsh said "I am absolutely delighted that Maudie has been selected to screen at TIFF. This film has been a passion project of mine since I first came across the story of Maud Lewis and her Painted House. Maud's passion for painting and her love of life despite her disabilities is a story that I found so inspiring."


Unless stars Academy Award nominated actress Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Into the Wild) as a mother whose eldest daughter Norah suddenly drops out of college, runs from the family and is found on a Toronto street corner, with a hand-lettered cardboard sign reading ‘Goodness' on her chest. The story follows her family as they struggle first to ‘rescue' Norah, then to understand her incomprehensible decision in taking this strange path. Unless is produced by Subotica with support from the Irish Film Board.

Commenting on the news director Alan Gilsenan said "I'm delighted that Unless will have its world premiere in Toronto. It seems fitting somehow that the film will be screened first in the city in which the story is set, but I'm sorry that the wonderful Carol Shields - upon whose best-selling book it's based - isn't still around to see it."

The TIFF takes place from September 8 to 18.

H/T: The Irish Film Board.