Irish feature documentary films are making international waves this week, with a story of Inishbofin local entitled The Stranger up for an award as part of Critics week at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival, and Here Was Cuba, a story focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis, shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious documentary prize – the Grierson awards.

Directed by Neasa Ní Chianán for Soilsiú Films, The Stranger
examines the life and death of Neal McGregor. An English artist, McGregor lived alone in a stone shed on the Donegal island of Inishbofin. He lived without electricity, water or heating for eight years until his death in 1990, at the age of 44. The local Gaelic-speaking islanders knew little of McGregor, whether he was a spy, a madman, or simply a person seeking solitude. Along with the beautifully illustrated notebooks and diaries he left behind, The Stranger pieces together a portrait of this enigmatic man. The film will screen as part of the Semaine de La Critique (Critics Week) competition on Wednesday, August 13th. The  SRG SSR / Semaine de la critique Prize, rewards the best documentary film with extraordinary social commitment.

Ní Chianán said of The Stranger‘s invitation: “For a company who always aspire to have a strong cinematic aesthetic in our films, the Locarno Film Festival could not be a better choice for our International premiere of The Stranger. Locarno is a truly European festival, the oldest on the continent with a large Media contingent with over 900 journalists attending. We hope it will give us the opportunity, to create international sales for The Stranger, and to finance our next Irish Film Board and RTÉ funded cinema documentary, In Loco Parentis.”

Meanwhile Here Was Cuba looks at the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Over those 13 days, the fate of the world lay in the hands of a few men charged with averting a nuclear holocaust. The inside story of how John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro averted disaster is just as relevant today, particularly amongst a generation too young to remember the crisis. Directed by John Murray and Emer Reynolds, Here Was Cuba was shortlisted for a Grierson Documentary award in the Best Historical Documentary category. Previous winners in this category include Fire in Babylon, Requiem for Detroit and Thriller in Manilla

Established in 1972, the Grierson Awards recognise and celebrate documentaries from Britain and abroad that have made a significant contribution to the genre and that demonstrate quality, integrity, creativity, originality and overall excellence.

The Locarno Film Festival will take place this week from August 6th to 16th, while the Grierson awards will take place on Monday 3rd November.

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