Note: producer Madeleine Molyneaux kindly offers these notes she wrote for the film Hunger for the 2008 Festival Nouveau Cinema in Montreal. Hunger screens on Tuesday, March 31st at Canal Place Theatres as part of Patois: The New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival.
Northern Ireland, 1981. Maze Prison, ten miles outside Belfast. IRA prisoner Bobby Sands and nine others go on a hunger strike to protest hellish conditions and the refusal of the British government to restore their political prisoner status. Noted Brit visual artist and Turner Prize recipient Steve McQueen, awarded the Camera d’Or at Cannes for this “hardcore, artcore” debut (a new description for an old genre) is a fierce talent to be reckoned with, and Hunger is a worthy successor to the poetic, visceral cinema of Jarman and Pasolini. The prison sequences are exquisitely photographed and rendered, and the narrative often takes on the tropes of performance art. (Indeed, the film is almost dialogue-free, a remarkable approach in this day of the wordy biopic). Uprisings and protests erupt with frenzied precision and possess a balletic violence that is part Clare Denis (the choreographed rituals of Le Beau Travail) and part Sam Peckinpah. The final devastating scenes of the dying days of Sands (a miraculous transformative portrayal by 31-year old Michael Fassbender, who starved for two months in preparation) are haunting semblances of iconic religious tableaus. McQueen has made the ultimate character study of the character of conviction, sacred and profane, certain to resonate on a universal level.
(Originally published in the catalog for the 2008 Festival Nouveau Cinema, Montreal)