Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Boorman to be IFTA lifetime achievement honouree

The Irish Film & Television Academy has announced that long-time Irish resident producer/director/writer John Boorman will be the recipient of the IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's IFTA awards on Feb 20.

Marking today’s announcement Mr. Martin Mansergh, Minister for State, said, "Ireland’s audiovisual industry is a vital part of the 'smart' economy, developing a vibrant mix of talent, creativity and enterprise. I am delighted to acknowledge the fine work achieved by this industry over the past 12 months. The sector continues to deliver quality output that has achieved both critical and economic success."

"John Boorman has deservedly received many accolades over his long career. However this Lifetime Achievement Award from Ireland will also celebrate John’s impact and influence on the early years of our film industry, playing a vital role as Chairman of the original Irish Film Board and also as Chairman of Ardmore Studios."

Born in England in 1933, John Boorman has resided in Co. Wicklow for almost forty years since he first came here to film Zardoz. Boorman served as Chairman of the first Irish Film Board and was chairman of the National Film Studios (now Ardmore Studios) until 1982. His grandmother Fitzgerald (on his father’s side) was Irish and influenced his fascination with the Celtic myths which so often appear in his work.

Boorman has shot four of his feature films here, beginning in 1974 with Zardoz. In 1980 he made the Arthurian tale Excalibur, featuring Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Ciarán Hinds in their earliest film roles. Boorman went on to exec-produce Neil Jordan’s first feature Angel in 1982. This was the subject of some controversy at the time due to his also holding the Chairmanship of the IFB which was funding the project with Channel 4.

Boorman's other Irish films include The General, the Martin Cahill biopic, and his most recent release The Tiger’s Tail. Some of The Tailor of Panama was also filmed here, and a largely Irish crew worked the location shoot abroad. Added to this he has nearly always brought his films back to Ireland for significant post production work. He has also been a mentor to many people starting out in the industry in Ireland.

Irish film industry insiders will note that the press release announcing the award makes no reference to Boorman's company, Merlin Films, which he established with accountant Kieran Corrigan. This despite the fact that Merlin raised huge sums ($125m according to its former website) in Section 481 investment finance, some of which funded Boorman's recent Irish films while most of the balance went into productions based at the now defunct Concorde Anois studio in Connemara.

Merlin's Section 481 funding of Roger Corman productions at Concorde became a matter of serious dispute with the Revenue Commissioners who believed the films were not fully compliant with the regulations. The Revenue believed that Section 481 funding was finding its way out of the country to The Phillipines and Aruba and sought to claw back the tax relief given to Irish investors.

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