2024 Norman Houston Short Film Award Winner Announced

The Silent People black and white still



Solas Nua's 18th annual Capital Irish Film Festival is proud to announce that the third recipient of the Norman Houston Short Film Award is The Silent People, a taut and unflinching look at the impact of economic vulnerability and a housing crisis on a young couple in Northern Ireland by Derry born writer and director Keith O’Grady. Against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, a young mixed-race Scots woman and a working-class Irish singer from Tallaght in Dublin are evicted without warning. After a year of living homeless on the streets, they chance upon the landlord that evicted them, and set out for revenge. 

The film was shot as part of the Cinemagic CDTA Project supported by the Department of Economy Northern Ireland in partnership with Belfast Met and North West Regional College.

The Norman Houston Award honors the life, spirit and legacy of the former long-time director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in the United States, who died in 2021. Presented annually for the best new short film made within the previous two years by a filmmaker from or based in Northern Ireland, it includes a $2500 prize. The award is made possible by support from the Northern Ireland Bureau, the Embassy of Ireland, and individual contributions.

The winning film is the creation of Keith O'Grady, a skilled, emerging filmmaker originally from Derry, Northern Ireland as well as an Irish-language speaker and outspoken autism advocate. First and foremost a director, he also works as a writer, producer and actor. He trained as an actor as well as in film production. Recent credits include A Bitter Pill (2022), Rian (2021), Colmcille (2021), the multi-award winning short film Saving Santa (2017), the documentary biopics Bram Stoker & Dracula and Robert Burns; and the BBC film An Colaiste Éireannach. He is currently developing a feature drama and more documentary work.

On Friday March 1, 2024, the Norman Houston Award will be presented ahead of the winning film’s screening. The 18th edition of the festival takes place February 29 - March 3, 2024 in partnership with the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre & Cultural Center (Silver Spring, MD). 


“I feel beyond honoured to get this recognition for The Silent People. Thank you to the jury and all at the Solas Nua Capital Irish Film Festival. The Silent People came out of my desire to tell a story that looks at the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and its effects on different sections of society. The story was very important to me and we all put a lot of work into the film. It was produced through Cinemagic, and we're all proud of how it turned out, and I want to thank everyone involved in making it, or in bringing it to public attention. It is difficult to express how grateful I am. I want to thank our three amazing actors, the whole crew and all the trainees who made the film. I have to give special mention to our cinematographer Thomas McKeown, Production Designer, Myles Thompson, and Costume Designer, Katie Ireland, and of course, a special thanks to Cinemagic, the producer Joan Burney Keatings and assistant producer Laura Carlisle for supporting me in telling this story” 2024 winner, Keith O'Grady

Capital Irish Film Festival Director, Maedhbh Mc Cullagh shared “We are delighted that another immensely talented emerging young filmmaker from Northern Ireland is being recognized through the Norman Houston Short Film Award. This special award amplifies the vibrant and diverse cultural voices emanating from Northern Ireland and offers a platform and opportunity to spotlight their unique storytelling in the Capital and the U.S. We look forward to introducing Keith O’Grady to the Solas Nua community in D.C. and at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center.”

Solas Nua Board Chair and Norman Houston Award judge, Kate Meenan-Waugh shared:  “This is a quirky, slightly irreverent treatment of a couple’s descent into homelessness.  Sardonic humor, pointed questions and a surprising plot twist leave the viewer much to think about at this short film’s end.”

Looking back at the previous years’ winners, it is impossible to deny the impact of the award on independent filmmakers who are trying to bring their work beyond the region.

2023 winners, Caleb Roberts, Callum Harrison and Peter Young for the film Homebird: “Winning the Norman Houston Prize was a great achievement, especially as now Oscar-winning filmmakers Tom Berkeley and Ross White won it the year prior. Playing at the festival with this prize on top, helped boost the profile of the film and solidified it as a cross-Atlantic success.”

2022 inaugural winners, Ross White and Tom Berkeley, whose winning short An Irish Goodbye went on to win the 2023 Academy Award Best Live Action Short Film at the 95th Oscars shared:  “The Norman Houston Award was the first prize that our film An Irish Goodbye received right at the start of its journey in 2022. It was such an incredible vote of confidence from the generous team at CIFF and it really gave us the belief that the film could connect with viewers beyond its humble beginnings in rural Northern Ireland.”

All CIFF 2024 short film submissions from Northern Irish filmmakers are automatically entered into The Norman Houston Short Film Award competition. CIFF is one of the largest programs of Irish cinema in North America, showcasing the latest Irish dramatic and documentary features, shorts, art films, and animation releases by Irish and Ireland-based filmmakers. The 2024 festival program will include debut features, North American premieres, women and LGBTQIA+ directors, Irish language titles, emerging voices, and family animation.

Also confirmed in this year's program are two new feature titles, the North American premiere of Andrew Gallimore's One Night in Millstreet and the East Coast premiere of The Graceless Age—The Ballad of John Murry by award-winning Irish director, Sarah Share.

The Capital Irish Film Festival is supported by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme, Culture Ireland, Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, Embassy of Ireland, Northern Ireland Bureau, Northern Ireland Screen, and the Irish Film Institute’s IFI International Programme supported by Culture Ireland.

Capital Irish Film Festival passes are on sale now with individual tickets on sale February 1, 2024.