Bright’s John scoops Cannes Film Festival Best Actor monthly award

Bright’s John scoops Cannes Film Festival Best Actor monthly award

13 October 2021

A LOCAL man has recalled what he describes as the “shocking” moment he discovered he had won a prestigious award at a globally recognised cinema festival.

John McIlmail (56), from Bright, near Downpatrick, was named ‘Best Actor in a Short Film’ at the Cannes World Film Festival monthly awards for August, after excelling in his big screen debut in the movie ‘Shine’.

“I can’t believe it, it’s something that is so surreal to me,” said John.

“It was a very big surprise that I was even nominated for it, never mind winning the award. I am in total shock.

“I received a phone call to tell me I had won, and I was genuinely speechless, which isn’t like me.”

John will now join the list of the other monthly winners for the overall award which is decided next year.

Shine tells the story of Nick, a young man balancing working life along with the heavy responsibility of assisting his father as an only son on the family farm. Nick aspires to be more, but lacks the confidence in expressing his dreams and ambitions to his traditional family and friends.

John, a Downpatrick-based butcher, became involved at the request of his nephew, Declan Curran, who wrote, directed and starred in the film.

“Declan portrayed Nick, whilst I was the role of his father, Johnny. He asked me would I take the part, so I thought why not? It would be a bit of craic,” said John. 

“I read the and took a few days to digest it. Once I knew all my lines I tried to put as much passion and expression into it as possible.

“I think that’s the most important thing you can do in whatever life throws at you, make sure you put your all into it,” he continued.

“Johnny is the polar opposite of what I am in real life. He’s a lot tougher and angrier than I am. But that’s why I felt I really had to give it my full attention to make him convincing.”

Scenes for the film were shot at John’s cottage in Bright, which was just another family element hidden within the film.

“Declan used the cottage and the surrounding fields over five days to film things and get everything correct. It was great because that cottage is hundreds of years old and is beside the family farm,” said John.

“Even my sheepdog Lola got some screen time. My other nephew, Arón Holden, was also involved as he edited the film.

“If my father and mother were alive they would be so proud of the whole family coming together and creating something as great as this.”

Despite John having very little acting experience, apart from the plays he featured in during his days at De La Salle High School, it seems as though acting is something that is engrained within the family.

“My father John-Patrick was very good at acting. He appeared in a number of Scor competitions,” reflected John. “He had a great passion for it, I think Declan being a grandson and 

myself being his son, it’s something that must be in the family.”

‘Shine’ was crowned ‘Best Online Short Film’ at the Dublin Underground Film Cinema Festival last month and has been nominated for various upcoming awards.

John admits he would have no hesitation in taking part in any future projects which Declan is involved in.

“I would absolutely do it all again in a heartbeat. It was great to be a part of the movie and I will be readily available for anything else Declan tips his hat to,” he said.

“I wish him and his crew all the best and hope their efforts bring them all the success they deserve.”