Tag Archives: IRA

Theatrical Review: Hunger

Director: Steve McQueen
Screenwriters: Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen
Producer: Laura Hastings-Smith and Robin Gutch
Sean Bobbitt BSC
Editor: Joe Walker
Music: David Holmes with Leo Abrahams
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon 
UK-Ireland, 2008, 96 minutes
The double meaning in this astonishing film’s title refers to both the hunger for food as well as for freedom. The prisoners in this factually-based and brutally realistic film are starved for both.
In 1981, during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the UK government was imprisoning IRA members but refusing to give them political prisoner status. As a result a group detained at the HM Prison Maze (aka Long Kesh), led by Bobby Sands, went on “blanket protest” which basically meant refusing prison uniforms. This led to them being exposed to almost unimaginably horrendous conditions and as well as to a series of violent repercussions.
The film, the first directed by British multi-media artist Steve McQueen, opens with a middle aged man beginning his day. Much of his initial behavior seems mundane; getting dressed and being served toast & tea by his wife. But then we see him soaking his bloodied and swollen knuckles in the bathroom sink; and, just before he drives off to work, he kneels down to look under his car for a bomb. This man turns out to be prison guard, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham). The film’s narrative is confusing at first; we assume that the story will be about this wounded individual. We also assume that he is carrying around fear, guilt and grief since he works in such a brutal environment. Surely he must feel ambivalent about his job.

Continue reading Theatrical Review: Hunger

Review: The Wind That Shakes the Barley

WSBMASTER116.jpgWhither a Weekend Films Post?
I set out to write about what films to see this weekend and clearly I failed. It’s after midnight on Sunday morning and here I am with almost 600 words about Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley and fuck all about any of the other films I was going to recommend. I’ll get better at this “doing things at the right time” thing, I promise. So, then, take as you will, this longer than expected review of Ken Loach’s excellent offering (albeit a week or 2 late):

Ken Loach‘s beautiful and stirring epic of the years leading up to and including the Irish Civil War is the best film of the year to date and this 2006 Cannes Palm D’or winner is certain to be on many critics’ top ten lists, come December. Often criticized (not by me) for being heavy-handed with his politics, Loach is less so, here. While there’s no doubt as to who the bad guys are in the first part of the film, the lines are blurred once the story moves from British occupation to civil war. Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have personalized this historical drama with the story of Damien and Teddy O’Donovan, two brothers deep in the Irish resistance. Damien (Cillian Murphy) begins the film all set to leave for London to work as a doctor, while older brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) is already a veteran member of the struggle against the British occupation. Two particularly vivid acts of brutality by the Black & Tans, paramilitary squads drafted by the English to help quell the rising rebellion in Ireland, inspire Damien to stay in Ireland and join the resistance.

Continue reading Review: The Wind That Shakes the Barley