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Cillian Murphy’s new film to open Berlinale tonight

Cillian Murphy’s latest movie Small Things Like These, an adaptation of Claire Keegan’s bestseller of the same name, will become the first Irish film to open the Berlin International Film Festival tonight.

Cork actor Murphy, who is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar this year for Oppenheimer, stars opposite Zara Devlin, Emily Watson, Eileen Walsh, and Michelle Fairley in the adaptation of Wexford author Keegan’s 2021 Booker Prize-nominated novel and is also among the producers.

The new film will also screen in competition in Berlin.

Keegan’s book Foster was the basis for the Oscar-nominated Irish-language film An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), which was an award winner in Berlin in 2022 and made history by becoming the first Irish language feature film to win a major award at the festival.

Small Things Like These reunites Murphy with Peaky Blinders director Tim Mielants, and the script has been written by Murphy’s longtime collaborator, playwright Enda Walsh.

According to the synopsis, the film takes place in an Irish town over Christmas in 1985, “when devoted father and coal merchant Bill Furlong (Murphy) discovers startling secrets kept by the convent in his town, along with some shocking truths of his own.

Claire Keegan

“The film reveals truths about Ireland’s Magdalen laundries – horrific asylums run by Roman Catholic institutions from the 1820s until 1996, ostensibly to reform `fallen young women’.”

Small Things Like These received the green light from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s company Artists Equity (AE) and was filmed in Wexford, Wicklow, and Dublin last year.

The film has received backing from Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland and is the first feature from Murphy and production partner Alan Moloney’s Big Things Films.

“With Small Things Like These, Tim Mielants tells the story of a man of few words, with wide open eyes, as clear as the skies of Ireland,” said the Berlin International Film Festival’s Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian.

Zara Devlin

“In The Quiet Girl, we already had sense of Claire Keegan’s skill in portraying small, apparently simple characters and making them unforgettable; here her delicate, rich, and yet down-to-earth writing finds a great interpreter in Cillian Murphy.

“We are confident that this story that allies the kindness to be directed to the more fragile, and the willpower to stand up against injustice, will resonate with everyone.

“We are looking forward to launching this ‘quiet’ yet quite exceptional film at the start of Zeitgeist Irland 24, a year-long celebration of Irish culture in Germany.”

Producers Murphy and Moloney said: “We are delighted that Small Things Like These will be the official Opening Film of the 2024 Berlinale.

“It was an honour to have adapted Claire Keegan’s powerhouse of a novel with screenwriter Enda Walsh and director Tim Mielants, brought to life by the talent and passion of our incredible cast and crew in New Ross, Wicklow, and Dublin. Our huge thanks to Artists Equity and Screen Ireland for their support.

“Having an Irish film open the Berlinale is a tribute to the power of storytelling at home, and we can’t wait for audiences to see the film.”

The Berlinale is one of the largest public film festivals in the world, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from around the globe each year.

Irish film has found critical and audience acclaim at the festival in recent years. As well as Colm Bairéad’s An Cailín Ciúin, previous Irish features such as Laurent Larivière’s About Joan and Philippe Falardeau’s My Salinger Year have received acclaim at the event.

The Berlin International Film Festival runs from 15-25 February.

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