Date: 17/05/2022 Times: 7:30 pm - 9:10 pm

Belfast has won 50 awards, including a BAFTA for Outstanding British Film of the Year and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Almost every aspect of the film has been nominated or has won awards and, certainly, the black and white cinematography is very striking. Kenneth Branagh, the director, has ventured bravely into contested territory with this deeply personal film, set at the outbreak of the Troubles in the city of his birth. So divisions are inevitable, with those who deplore it as a travesty of political reality ranged against others who recognise their own stories in it, or simply like it for what it is: a portrait of an ordinary childhood upended by extraordinary communal violence.

There’s no pretence here to offer a political overview. Part of the film’s strength is the way it holds the focus at the level of a small boy’s understanding, so the betrayals seem inexplicable, the threat only ever half seen. As long as nine-year-old Buddy (played by Jude Hill) can go to the cinema with his granny to see thrilling new technicolour releases – which cast a romantic glow over his imagination that resists the sombre palette of the film itself – everything is more or less right in his world. This is how childhood is; it’s how children have always been able to survive the most terrible circumstances. If Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, as his parents, seem implausibly glamorous, it’s because that’s how Buddy sees them; if Ciarán Hinds’s roguish Pop seems impossibly erudite, it’s because anyone who can do maths homework seems like a genius to a small child who can’t.

In 98 tightly edited minutes (beautifully shot by Haris Zambarloukos) it reveals a depressed, monochrome city, where the women struggle to put chips on the table, and the men are forced overseas to find work; where a spittle-flecked preacher showers vitriol on the heads of his congregation; where neighbours who look out for a small boy are quick to crab about his mother, and there’s no future for friendship between children from different faiths.

Above all, topically, it’s a film about migration: about all that is lost when political circumstances make home impossible. “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind,” wrote the Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid, of another continent in another era. Buddy and his parents leave Pop in the cemetery and Granny standing alone in the street muttering, ‘Go, and don’t look back’.

Click below for reviews and more information.


Year: 2021

Country: UK

Cert: 12A

Duration: 98 mins

Dir: Kenneth Branagh

'Kenneth Branagh's unabashedly feelgood memoir of growing up in Belfast as the Troubles erupted'

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Venue: William Loveless Hall