«The reason for making ‘Belfast’ was the need to return to myself»

The Angels



Kenneth Branagh had been thinking about writing a film about his childhood for some time, but it was the pandemic that allowed him to finally tell his story. «During confinement, for me everything returned to the origins. Great questions arose in people’s lives, all caused by the Covid situation, and that brought me back to Belfast, to that corner of my memory where I keep important moments of tenderness and joy while what we had crumbled around us, ” assures the Oscar-winning actor and director.

‘Belfast’ is a semi-autobiographical film that follows nine-year-old Buddy and his working-class family during violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland’s capital.

“I guess one of the reasons for making this film was the need to take a trip back to myself,” explains the filmmaker, whose family moved to Reading, England, when he was the age of the young protagonist. And, like little Buddy, Branagh left behind “that extended family made up of brothers, cousins, uncles, friends…everyone on the streets.”

Shot in soft black and white in homage to Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘Belfast’ is a deeply evocative film in which Branagh reminisces about the community of his childhood with actors he has placed on the awards catwalk. Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds, Judi Dench and newcomer Jude Hill.

“If you were born and raised in Ireland, you are well aware that you were born in a difficult place,” Dornan reveals of his experience in Belfast in the 1980s and 1990s. Raised in an upper-middle-class Protestant family (his father, the obstetrician and medical pioneer Jim Dornan, died of coronavirus last year), the actor is careful to point out that his existence was privileged, far from the working-class areas where the city became a battlefield. “From the day I was born, to the day I left, people have been waging a civil war.”

Balfe, meanwhile, lived in the Republic of Ireland, almost on the border with England, and was asked by Branagh, like the rest of his cast, to share his own memories of ‘Belfast’. “His way of helping us was that of a brilliant teacher, capable of taking things that we have experienced and that, without saying so, we have included in our performances,” admits the actress, who plays the protagonist’s mother. For the interpreter, who is about to premiere the sixth season of ‘Outlander’, shooting ‘Belfast’ is the natural consequence after having starred in the series about Scotland. “This is another gift that ‘Outlander’ has given me. As a woman in this industry, it is important to create your own destiny, be aware of each of the decisions you make and not let yourself go. If all you do is wait for the phone to ring, you end up consumed with frustration. I want to maintain a long career and diversify by directing, producing, writing and acting because when you have many open fronts, you learn from yourself and from the industry, “says Balfe.

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