Director of Maze prison film hopes for open minds

Director of Maze prison film hopes for open minds

The director of a film about life in the Maze prison today said he hoped the people of the North would have an open mind about the movie.

'Hunger', which covers the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA hunger strike, opened the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, which encourages innovative works and young talent.

Directed by London-born Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen, the film stars Irish actor Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands.

Asked about how people in the North would see the film, McQueen said: "I would hope they have an open mind, and that was all."

He said of the people of the North: "I respect them immensely."

He described the work as "local, but it's global".

McQueen said that although politics was at the basis of the film, he did not think of the movie as political.

What he focused on, McQueen said, was the extreme situation of human beings in H Block and the routine and rituals.

He said he thought of an image of a parent and child "where the only power that child has is to refrain from eating".

He said: "What you see is yourself. It's about human beings… the historical and the political will take care of itself."

Asked if the film could open up old wounds, McQueen said: "I think that people are much more intelligent than people think…

"It is a case of reflecting on the recent past and having a debate on the recent past in an intelligent fashion. That's what it's about."

The film sees Raymond Lohan (played by Stuart Graham) doing his job as a prison officer in the jail, working within one of the H-blocks, where republican prisoners are on protest.

A young, new prisoner Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) is brought in and shares a cell with republican prisoner Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), who is hardened to the realities of Maze life.

He trains him how to smuggle items and exchange communications, passing them on to their H-block leader Sands.

The film tells how the rioting broke out and violence spread beyond the Maze.

Asked about the brutality depicted, McQueen said: "People told me it's shocking and I'm like: 'Wow, damn.'

"The fact of the matter is, what happened in that situation, it's... structured chaos... the violence is ritualised."

McQueen said he was very interested in the idea of H Block and what happened in a tense and extraordinary space.

He said he did not claim to have an idea on mortality and morality.

Asked if it was satisfying to make a film, McQueen said that maybe it could communicate with more people.

He said he did not see himself as an artist or a film maker but "a guy who makes stuff".

He described the crews in Belfast who helped make the film as "fantastic".

Asked about parallels which could be drawn with situations today, McQueen talked about the idea of using your body to be heard, but said he disagreed with violence altogether.

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