Sands film scoops Cannes prize

A film about the Bobby Sands hunger strike which scooped an honour at Cannes will “have a resonance across the world”, its co-producer said.

'Hunger', which won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of Sands’ 1981 hunger strike.

He died as a result of the protest while in jail at Maze Prison in the North.

Co-producer Laura Hastings-Smith, who worked alongside Robin Gutch on the film, said: “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.”

She added that they were “absolutely thrilled” about winning the award.

The film is directed by London-born Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen and stars Irish actor Michael Fassbender as IRA prisoner Sands, the leader and the first to die in the Maze prison hunger strike.

It was shown as part of the ’Un Certain Regard’ section of the festival, which encourages innovative works and young talent.

The gritty portrayal is set in one of the H-blocks at Maze Prison in 1981, where Republican prisoners were on protest.

New inmate 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 tells how the rioting broke out and violence spread beyond the Maze.

McQueen said news coverage of Sands’ hunger strike and eventual death he had seen as a child stayed with him.

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

The award-winning film was the first script he had written.

Other winners at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, selected by a nine member jury headed by Sean Penn, include 'The Class', a French film set in a school in a Parisian suburb, which won the Palme d'Or.

Italian pieces 'Gomorrah', about a crime syndicate in Naples, and 'Il Divo', which focuses on politician Giuilo Andreotti, won the Grand Prize and Jury Prize respectively.

French actress Catherine Deneuve and Clint Eastwood both received Special 61st Anniversary Prizes.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was named best director for 'Three Monkeys', telling a story of imprisonment and deceit, while Benicio Del Toro won best actor for his role in 'Che', a biopic about Che Guevara.

The Best Actress gong went to Sandra Corveloni for 'Linha de Passe', a piece about four brothers fighting for a better life.

Best Screenplay was given to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for 'Lorna’s Silence', the tale of an Albanian woman who dreams of running a snack bar with her boyfriend in Belgium.

'Megatron', about an eight-year-old boy in Bucharest, was named best short film.

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