Hunger strike film opens in Belfast

Hunger, the film about the 1981 Irish republican hunger strike in Northern Ireland's Maze prison, has just had its official European premiere in Belfast, to a predictably controversial reception

Playwright Gary Mitchell (about whom I recently blogged) turned down an invitation to the premiere, saying:

"I've already seen movies about the hunger strikes. I don't need to see another one. I'm not suggesting that people stop producing films that show a nationalist point of view but there should be some balance. We'd like to see the other side of the story occasionally." 

I have a lot of respect for Mitchell and fully understand the point he is making about the under-telling of the Northern Irish unionist / Protestant experience on celluloid, but think it is a mistake to simply avert one's eyes from a political narrative to which one objects.

The film concentrates on the story of Bobby Sands, the first of ten men to die on hunger-strike, battling Thatcher's government to attain 'political status'.

In the short term, they lost their battle, calling off the hunger strike without achieving their aims. Within a few years however, the government quietly conceded just about all of the prisoners' demands, while the street and electoral activism triggered by the hunger strikes ultimately set Sinn Féin on a path towards constitutional politics and into peaceful, shared governance of Northern Ireland. It's a funny old world.

Meanwhile, over seven months in 1981, ten men died inside the H-blocks and more than fifty others were killed on the streets of this small place.

Unlike Mitchell, no-one invited me to the premiere, so I'll pay my money and take my chances with what, by all accounts is a powerful and very well made film. 

For the record, I gave my broader thoughts on Bobby Sands, the hunger strike and some of the issues this film raises, back in May, when it scooped an award at Cannes. You can revisit them here.

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