Tom Berkeley and Ross White (‘An Irish Goodbye’ directors): ‘Tragedy and comedy are never as far apart as they seem’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

Filmmakers Tom Berkeley and Ross White haven’t quite gotten used to being Oscar nominees. The directing team are now first time Oscar nominees for their short film, “An Irish Goodbye,” the pair’s second directorial effort. As Berkeley said in an exclusive video interview with Gold Derby, “It must be what it’s like to go to the Olympics if you’re an athlete.” Check out more of our chat above.

“An Irish Goodbye” tells the story of estranged brothers Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) and Lorcan (James Martin) who come together after the death of their mother. Turlough wants to sell their mother’s farm and send Lorcan, who has Downs Syndrome, to live with family. Lorcan, however, wants his estranged brother to stay with him to run the farm. The bickering brothers find a bucket list belonging to their late mother, and Lorcan refuses to leave the farm until they fulfill their mother’s wishes.

The idea for the film came as Berkeley was at a soccer game with his father. He observed a pair of brothers — one with Downs Syndrome — and was struck by the dynamic between them. ” I just found them really compelling,” he recalls. “I think what was interesting about them was they were fiery and at each other’s throats in the kind of typical brotherly way. But what was interesting was that one of the brothers had Downs Syndrome, and so there was an element of responsibility and care that was there between them.”

The film deals frankly with the subjects of grief and reconciliation, but it’s also really funny. The filmmakers say that the comedy was important, but that it needed to be grounded in character. “The way we both see the world is that the tragedy and the comedy are never as far apart as they seem,” says White. “I think if we had have just written a whole load of jokes, I think [the film] would’ve felt very paper thin. But it was really important for us that we identified these characters first.”

The film’s nomination at the Oscars is one of several nominations for Irish films and filmmakers: Martin McDonagh‘s “The Banshees of Inisherin” earned nine nominations, and the Irish drama “The Quiet Girl” is nominated for Best International Feature. White believes that the element of storytelling, evident in the culture’s music and poetry, makes Irish cinema unique. “There’s such a strong tradition of storytelling as part of the culture here,” he says. “I think that that storytelling DNA is hopefully now coming through in the Irish cinema with more and more filmmakers seeing that as their way to tell the stories.”

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