The judges of this years Pull Focus Award were documentarian Dónal Ó Céilleachair (The Camino Voyage), Kabosh Theatre’s CEO, Paula McFetridge and The Irish Film Institute’s Head of Irish Programming, Sunniva O’Flynn. After difficult hours of deliberating the judges finally came to a decision. They had fulsome praise for the high calibre of films shortlisted and agreed the winning film to be: Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s, Gaza 

Gaza is a masterfully crafted portrait of life in the war-torn Gaza strip. It is cinematic in intent and delivery. The filmmakers secured an impressive level of access to public and private spaces in a territory notorious for its restrictions. Its cinematography, orchestral score and smart editing deftly draws together stories from a broad cast of characters to create an engaging, energetic, coherent whole.

The film adds compelling human texture and narrative heft to a story that is otherwise told through agenda-driven news bulletins to which viewers are easily inured. In so doing the filmmakers have dignified the inhabitants of this conflict zone and served them well in bringing their plight to an international stage.

Gaza carefully illuminates the viewer and ennobles its subjects.

They also had a special mention for : When All Is Ruin Once Again,

The jury highly commends Keith Walsh and Jill Beardsworth for their production of this fine impressionistic documentary essay. The film has admirably lofty ambitions exploring community and memory, modernity and impermanence through interweaving of poetry, some visual abstraction and a wealth of classic ethnographic tropes.  The filmmakers are embedded in the community and capture serendipitous moments – some poignant, some funny, some mundane -to create a vivid slice of Irish village life that is neither local nor national but universal in its resonance. The filmmakers approach their subject with artistic purpose and intellectual rigour but also with a playfulness and agility which allows them to present their Gort neighbours with humanity and affection.


Director Anna Rodgers’ Strong at the Broken Places won the Shorts Award, and was chosen from 27 original, thought provoking and well crafted films, judges Michael Hewitt and Dermot Lavery of DoubleBand Films commented:

Selecting the winner of the Docs Ireland Best Short Documentary award was an extraordinarily difficult process, with twenty-six wonderful and very different films to choose from. There were sensitive portraits of intriguing characters and their worlds, more abstract and elliptical films and those that addressed a particular social or political issue. After much deliberation we chose one from the latter category: Strong in the Broken Places. Directed by Anna Rodgers, it is a powerful, sensitive and beautiful film that explores one man’s campaign for truth and justice in the wake of the clerical abuse scandal in Ireland. It is a worthy winner of the award.


Our long running and prestigious Maysles award, having found a new home in Docs Ireland (originally awarded during each year’s Belfast Film Festival) proved a difficult task for this years judges, Filmmakers Zoe Tweedy, Ross McClean and Sinead O’Shea.  The standard of the shortlisted films was exceptional.  The judges said they had felt genuinely privileged to see so many exceptional films from around the world:

Such was the calibre of this year’s contest that we have decided to present two Special Mention Awards alongside an overall winner.

The first goes to a film which surprised and delighted the jury with its portrayal of another world. This film was Present Perfect by Shengze Zhu.

The second Special Mention award goes to For Sama by Waad El-Khateab and Edward Watts: It is an unforgettable account of human suffering and resilience, as well as being a landmark document of how war feels for those on the ground.

For the overall winner of the year’s Maysles Brother’s Award for Observational Documentary we have chosen a film that quietly explores great depths.  For the art of its storytelling, and the seriousness of its purpose, the 2019 award goes to Steven Eastwood for Island. 

Northern Ireland Screen Feature Development Pitch

Lucy Baxter, Our Head of industry announced the winner of the Development pitch on Sunday Night at the closing film at Odeon Belfast. She and her jury (Andrew Reid, NIS, Trevor Birney,  Finepoint Films, and Alison Millar, Erica Starling) had this to say:

The Northern Ireland Screen Feature Development Pitch had 4 very different stories, all of which were pitched with impressive clarity & passion by the film makers.

Through the deliberation process we discussed not only the strength of the idea, the quality of the teaser and the viability of the story as a feature film, but also the film making team behind each one.
The winner was No Place Like Home, pitched by director Myrid Carten and Producer Phil Harrison, is a compelling narrative about family relationships, mental health and human identity.
The teaser film and pitch had a powerful, visceral quality that stood out and it was clear that Myrid had a confident creative vision and worked well with her producer.
We could really see the film taking shape before us, and we’re all excited to see the finished creation.