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Hunger - Preview

Hunger

Preview by Jack Foley

ONE of the British highlights of the forthcoming London Film Festival promises to be Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen’s debut feature film, Hunger.

Set in Belfast’s Maze Prison, it’s an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender, of Eden Lake fame).

Hunger takes viewers into the world of the infamous H-blocks, where republican prisoners are on the Blanket and No-Wash protest, a hellish place for prisoners and guards alike. For the prisoners, their bodies are their only weapons, and after a new round of humiliation and violence, Sands decides to start a Hunger Strike to continue the fight for political prisoner status for republican internees.

Described as “visceral and deeply disturbing” by London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron, McQueen’s film is also credited with being angry and compassionate, whilst featuring brilliant performances from Fassbender and Liam Cunningham as his priest.

The film was among the highlights of the Cannes Film Festival, where it won acclaim despite not being shown in competition.

Speaking from Cannes, director McQueen said that he wanted to show “what it was like to see, hear, smell and touch in the H-block in 1981”.

“What I want to convey is something you cannot find in books or archives: the ordinary and extraordinary, of life in this prison,” he continued. “Hunger for me has contemporary resonance. The body as a site of political warfare is becoming a more familiar phenomenon.

“It’s the final act of desperation; your own body is your last resource for protest. One uses what one has, rightly or wrongly… In Hunger there is no simplistic notion of ‘hero’ or ‘martyr’ or ‘victim’. My intention is to provoke debate in the audience, to challenge our own morality through film.”

Hunger opens in UK cinemas on October 31, 2008. It’s playing at the London Film Festival on October 19 and 20.