Irish producer and film industry activist Mike Downey has received the inaugural lifetime achievement award of the Stockfish Film Festival in Iceland for his contributions to the international film industry.
The award, presented at a private ceremony Wednesday night, recognizes achievement from professionals in the “academe, production, distribution, film festival and market scenes.”
Downey, founder of Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME), has production credits on more than 100 feature films, including Dome Karukoski’s Tom of Finland, Volker Schlöndorff’s Return to Montauk, Agnieszka Holland’s Charlatan and Adrian Sibley’s documentary The Ghost of Richard Harris. He is currently working on Holland’s highly-anticipated upcoming Franz Kafka biopic Kafka. He’s a member of the BAFTA Council, the Asia Pacific Screen Academy and the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But Downey is arguably better known within the film industry for his tireless activism on behalf of filmmakers in crisis. He was one of the leading figures behind the successful campaign for the release of imprisoned Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov, who was arrested by Russian forces for “terrorist acts” in 2015 after Russia annexed Crimea. In 2020, Downey was part of the group that launched the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), to support collective action by the film community for filmmakers who face political persecution for their work. The ICFR have campaigned for the release of imprisoned filmmakers in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Belarus and Myanmar, among others, and have been active in supporting directors and film industry professionals forced to flee their countries due to war or political prosecution. The ICFR set up a fund to support in crisis filmmakers with small grants to cover temporary relocation expenses and legal and administrative fees for visas and other travel documents.
Downey was at the Stockfish festival to present his latest production, The Rise and Fall of Comrade Zylo, directed by Fatmir Koci, which Downey co-wrote.
“Stockfish is a fabulous festival, and Iceland is home to some of the best film makers in Europe,” Downey said. “There’s only one thing better than getting an award from the audience and that is an award from one’s peers. Having made a dozen films in Iceland or with Icelandic talent, I can really say that I am doubly honoured. I have been so lucky in my working life to be able to recognise early on the difference between having a job – and having a vocation – this, I believe came from a sense of freedom in my education and this forged a sense of huge independence how I have run my career. When we are able to blur the lines between work and play and, to use the cliché, do what we love and love what we do – this is something that cannot be bought.”