(AFP) – “Belfast”, favorite of the next Oscars shot in the midst of a pandemic, was inspired by another kind of “confinement”, that experienced as a child by Kenneth Branagh during the conflict in Northern Ireland, explained the director on Tuesday.
“I wanted to shake hands with this nine-year-old child and also try to understand what my parents had gone through”, explained Kenneth Branagh while showing in Los Angeles this feature film all in black and white, which leaves Friday at the United States.
Filming for “Belfast” began in August 2020, with daily Covid tests and a quasi-military organization to allow the various technicians to prepare the set away from the rest of the team.
“During this pandemic, a lot of people have made enormous sacrifices. And I think that was also the case with these people at that time of“ the + Troubles ”in Northern Ireland, he continues.
The film “comes from this silence that many of us faced at the start of the confinement, and which certainly referred me to this other confinement we went through when the two ends of our street were blocked” by barricades, underlines the British director.
The star actor behind the camera had moved to England with his family in the late 1960s to escape the conflict between Protestants and Catholics that engulfed Northern Ireland.
“Belfast” opens with a scene of street violence in the summer of 1969, when Protestant activists attack Catholic families to drive them from these streets where the two communities had lived together for so long.
“I was 16 in 1969 and I remember the excitement of that explosion. It wasn’t until the next day that I started to see the threat it posed,” says Ciaran Hinds, who grew up in Belfast like many other actors in the film.
“My childhood back then was the noise of this city at night, and the explosions in the distance reverberating off the hills of Belfast, or the gunshots at night,” he says.
These “troubles” would plague this British province for the next thirty years, pitting one community against another along religious and nationalist lines of fault.
– “Emotional liberation” –
The film is set against the backdrop of this violence and follows a young father (Jamie Dornan) who leaves his body defending Belfast to give his family a brighter future.
But his wife (Caitriona Balfe) and young boy Buddy (Jude Hill) want to stay in the neighborhood where they have their roots and their friends.
The film combines humor and emotions, for example in family scenes featuring Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench, who play Buddy’s grandparents and have been praised by critics.
“I think it’s linked to the fact that we may not have completely got back on our feet after what we went through” during the pandemic, says Kenneth Branagh to explain this enthusiasm of the first spectators. “Maybe we need some kind of emotional release, and stories always help with that,” he says.
“Belfast” is a chance for the 60-year-old actor-director to win the first Oscar of his multiple careers, after already five nominations.
He was first selected in 1990 as an actor and director for “Henry V”. A few years later, he was again in the running for the short film “Swan Song” and again for his adaptation of “Hamlet”.
Branagh had lost his Irish accent as a child because he “didn’t want to be noticed” in England and he now realizes that the theater and the cinema are a way for him to reconnect with his roots.
“I certainly got lost for quite a while, I think. It took me a while to find my way home, and with this movie I got there,” Branagh says.