Triumph for hunger-strike movie
Triumph for hunger-strike movie

A film about hunger striker Bobby Sands has won a major award at the Cannes film festival.

Among those who congratulated the people behind ‘Hunger’ was former hunger striker Raymond McCartney, who took part in the first protest in 1980.

The film won the Camera d’Or award at the closing ceremony of the festival de Cannes on Sunday night. It is a prize which is given to the director of the best first-time feature film in the festival and was presented by US actor Dennis Hopper.

By director Steve McQueen, the film star actors Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender, who takes on the role of Sands.

The film is a portrayal of the last six weeks of the life of the IRA hunger striker and is co-written by award-winning playwright Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen.

It is set in one of the H-blocks at the prison in 1981, where IRA and INLA prisoners were protesting.

New PoW Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) shares a cell with republican prisoner Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), who trains him how to smuggle items and exchange communications, passing them on to their H-block leader Bobby Sands.

The film shows rioting breaking out and violence spreading beyond the prison.

Mr McQueen said news coverage of Bobby Sands’s hunger strike and eventual death had stayed with him since he first saw it as a child.

“This memory and this opportunity drew me to find out more about him and I thought it could be a powerful film,” he said.

Co-producer Laura Hastings-Smith, who worked alongside Robin Gutch, said: “We’re all absolutely thrilled - and thrilled for Steve, thrilled for the film and for everyone who’s worked on Hunger.

“The key to the film was that it looked at the humanity of the story and how this place, Maze prison, at that time in history, how it was a brutalising place for everyone - be you prison officer, prisoner, orderly or riot guard.

“It was a tragedy for everyone. We looked at what happens when dialogue stops and that has a resonance across the world.”

In a statement, Raymond McCartney, now a Sinn Féin Assembly member, said he welcomed the award that was given to the film.

Mr McCartney took part in the first H-Block hunger strike of 1980 and spent 53 days without food.

“This award... confirms the huge interest in the hunger strikes and the enduring legacy Bobby Sands and his comrades have left,” he said.

“This is an important subject and I look forward to the film being screened in Ireland.”

A spokesperson for the Irish Film Board congratulated the makers and said they were delighted at the result.

Ironically, Belfast City Council refused to allow its property to be used in the making of the film.

It has not yet been decided when the film will open in Irish cinemas -- a date has not yet been set by the distributors, Pathe.

‘Hunger’ has secured sales deals with distributors in the US, Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Australia and New Zealand.

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