In 2013, the Film Selection Committee of the Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival decided it was time to highlight Irish short films in the festival lineup. In years prior, short films were presented before or between full-length offerings during the festival, but the team decided it was time to put these amazing shorts into the spotlight. Thus was born the “Wee Irish Film Night”, an entire night dedicated to Irish shorts, in which the audience has the opportunity to pick their favorite short film of the night. That winning short is awarded the O’Kalem Award for Audience Favorite Short Film, and the award is presented to the filmmakers.
The O’Kalems, as they were known in Ireland, were director Sidney Olcott and screenwriter and actress Gene Gauntier, of the New York based Kalem Film Company. Between 1910 and 1914, the O’Kalems, based in Co. Kerry, made films with strong Irish themes and local Irish locations. Their first film, The Lad from Old Ireland (1910), was the first major film produced in Ireland and one of the first American films shot overseas. The award is constructed with distinctive top and bottom halves: The native wood base represents our Louisiana roots and heritage, and the emerald green glass “flame” represents the artistic achievements of the Irish filmmakers. Every year the judged short films change, and so does the glass portion of the award, which is created each year by local Baton Rouge glass artist Nick Oldenburg.
Past O’Kalem Award winners of the Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival:
2017: Gridlock, accepted by Director Ian Hunt Duffy
2016: The Immaculate Misconception, accepted by Cowriter-Director Michael Geoghegan
2015: Deadly, accepted by Writer-Director Aidan McAteer
2014: Rúbaí, accepted by Writer Antoin Beag ó Colla
2013: El Toro, accepted by Director Tomás Seoighe