So I have just heard that a movie “Belfast”, directed by our very own (is he?) “Sir” Kenneth Branagh has been short-listed for an Oscar.
Some things are beyond Satire.
About 99.9% of us who have lived thru The Troubles think we have a talent to write about it all. I am no exception Of course my main talent is Procrastination.
Mostly I sit around telling to anyone who will listen what the Troubles (1969-1998) were all about. Of course, I do write it down but rarely in a considered way. There are of course two forms of Troubles literature…histories, memoirs, fiction, screenplay.
Belfast writer, Martin Lynch has a well received play “The Troubles According To My Da” . Personally I am not a fan of Lynch but the title of his play is brilliant. Yes I am one of several thousand “Da” type men who bore our children to death with our stories.
Films and TV productions about Norn Iron have a chequered history. Typically in the early days, square jawed British agents went undercover, seduced idealistic feisty red head whose father and brother were republican psychopaths.
For the record, the only good Norn Iron movie is “Resurrection Man”, essentially the story of the Shankhill Butchers. It is very true……and consequently unwatchable because of the sectarian cruelty.
Unionists ask why there is no movie depicting loyalists in a sympathetic light. I cant answer the quuestion. But I could ask the same about Nazi Germany, the Confederacy or the apartheid South African regime. I would guess it is hard to be sympathetic.
Is it that simply on the wrong side of History. Or is there a liberal Hollywood elite who think that colonisers and land grabbers are less lovable than the colonised. The Irish after all (in recent years at least) have been treated pretty well by Hollywood…..”Michael Collins” and “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” for example.
The scary headmistress, Sister Michael (“Derry Girls”) has the best take on The Troubles. “The only thing you need to know about the Troubles is that we are the Goodies”. A sentence that demolishes every LetsGetAlongerist nonsense that one side is as bad as the other.
What does Kenneth Branagh bring that is new?
Well I think he brings three maybe contradictory things.
First off, he is a 60 year old man who was born in Belfast to working class parents. He left Belfast as a child, more or less as the Troubles were starting. He retains an affection for his Protestant, unionist roots, still a supporter of Linfield and (Glasgow) Rangers, very much part of that “culture”.
Secondly, he is a gifted writer, director and actor who in his early career was labelled as a “new Laurence Olivier” and perhaps also labelled as a stereotypical “luvvie”, an “actorrrrrr!) (sic).
Thirdly, he is a very “establishment” figure. “SIR” Kenneth Branagh is a unionist in that so called liberal English way…….not of course in the narrow “Norn Iron” way.
I sincerely hope “Belfast” does NOT win an Oscar. I detest anything that might be interpreted as a good news story for this God-awful entity that is Norn Iron. The word “Belfast” appears on my birth certificate. And I never want to see the word in any other other context.
There are however movies that seem like obvious Oscar winners because of the subject matter….”Mississippi’s Burning”, “Schindler’s List” and maybe “Michael Collins”. In a sense the Academy is voting for the theme as much as the movie itself.
Ricky Gervais (I am not a fan) touched on this in his series “Extras”. In that excellent series, Gervais played a jobbing “extra” in TV series and movies. In this capacity he met stars such as Patrick Stewart, Daniel Radcliffe and others.
Actually these guest stars played alternative exaggerated versions of themselves.
So……”Kate Winslett” or rather the exaggerated version of Kate Winslett was playing a nun in a WW2 movie and chatting about her role. It was a movie about the Holocaust and “Kate” had taken this role because playing this kinda part, she had a good chance of an Oscar.
Maybe I am too cynical. But that is how I see Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”. It is a worthy subject….Photogenic children coming of age in civil war Norn Iron.