Belfast is often seen as one of the most divided cities in Northern Ireland. It was a battleground during the Troubles and remains so today, with many Catholics feeling that they are not being given enough opportunities to benefit from Belfast’s prosperity. Through an eight-year old boy’s eyes we see how different parts of Belfast have changed over time and how it has shaped him into who he is today.,
Belfast is a city in Northern Ireland. The “where is belfast located” is a story about the turbulent past of Belfast through the eyes of a young boy.
Kenneth Branagh, a five-time Academy Award contender, wrote and directed Belfast. A little child, who lived through the chaotic late 1960s in the city where Branagh was born, tells the narrative with comedy, sensitivity, and passion.
This film is about a personal perspective of Branagh’s experience in Belfast. The world surrounding a nine-year-old kid is flipped upside down as he starts on his road to maturity. Everything he thought he knew and understood about life has changed dramatically, but the indomitable enchantment of pleasure, laughing, music, and movies has not.
North Belfast, 1969, working family
Buddy, nine years old, knows who he is and where he belongs in the summer of 1969. He was born into a working-class family and now lives in North Belfast, where he is happy, loved, and secure. His world is completed by a close-knit community whose members may always laugh together as he roams the familiar streets with unabashed delight.
A street’s residents are like one large family, and no one can go lost since, at least on the surface, everyone in Belfast knows everyone else. In the darkness of the theater and in front of the television, American films and TV programs intoxicate Buddy’s innermost wishes and aspirations.
Despite the fact that man has previously walked on the moon, Buddy’s boyhood idyll is turned into a nightmare in the late 1960s. The societal unrest that has been simmering under the surface bursts out, and events soon spiral out of control. Riots erupt as a result of disguised assaults, the violence extends across the city, and religious discord adds gasoline to the flames. Catholics and Protestants, who were once cordial neighbors, are now bitter adversaries.
Buddy is trying to make sense of this new world of turmoil and craziness, lockdown, and heroes and villains he’s only seen in movies, and all he knows is crumbling as the disturbance spreads into his neighborhood.
While Mum tries to cope, Dad works in England to help support the family. The populace is enraged, and innocent lives are in jeopardy. Buddy understands what he wants from his heroes, thanks to films like Midnight and Who Shot Liberty Valance, but can his father become the hero he desires? Will his mother give up her past in order to save the family’s future? How can her grandparents, who are under danger, be protected? And how is he supposed to love the woman he’s going to marry?
Buddy’s thrilling, amusing, tragic, and terrifying odyssey through riots, violence, the pleasures and pains of familial ties, and the agonies of first love provides the answers. All of this is accompanied by the kind of dancing, singing, and laughing that only the Irish can muster when the rest of the world has gone insane.
What more is Buddy capable of? This is his whole existence. Belfast is the name of the city.
A gripping and life-changing tale
“Belfast is a city of tales,” Branagh says. “In the late 1960s, it went through an extraordinarily difficult era in its history, with very dramatic, sometimes violent occurrences that had a significant influence on my family and myself.” It took fifty years for me to figure out how to write it and convey it. The film was inspired by my childhood, a period in everyone’s life when a youngster begins to lose his innocence and embarks on the path to maturity. The turbulence in the world around us aided this transitional moment in Belfast in 1969. The lovely circumstances of good neighbourliness, sunlight, and communal cohesion that we observe at the start of the film fade as a frantic throng descends on the neighborhood like a swarm of bees, putting an end to the calm. After the mob has dispersed, the streets are filled with fearful individuals who feel compelled to lock themselves in their homes in case another assault occurs, and that is precisely how I remember it. Life was flipped upside down in an afternoon, and I recall feeling like everything was happening in slow motion, not understanding what all the commotion was about, then turning around and seeing the mob at the end of the street, and life never, ever returning to normal. Because individuals can know when a new period in their life is about to begin, even if it is not always brought about by such terrible exterior events, I got the idea that something big and fatal was occurring.”
During the first pandemic curfews in 2020, Branagh began scripting the screenplay. “As the narrative began to take form, I realized it wasn’t simply another tale about a little family caught in a difficult place and forced to make life-altering choices.” But there’s also a sense of restraint here, since we’ve blocked ourselves in at the end of the street, forcing the family to choose between leaving and remaining. So some scenes in the narrative ring true with our current anxieties about the epidemic — we’re cooped up and scared about our own and our loved ones’ safety.”
Almodóvar’s impact may be seen in a number of ways.
Branagh was inspired by Pedro Almodóvar’s statement from his film Pain and Glory when defining his approach to the narrative. “He referred to it as autofiction.” Although it was about his life, he was analyzing the narrative to some level, and I was doing something similar. We experience things through the eyes of Buddy, a little child who I based on myself. He starts to filter his experiences via movies and television shows, as well as imagined events and storylines. The pictures on the bead canvas had a big influence on my imaginative growth, and I wanted to show Buddy that he had similar experiences. I got the impression that I was writing a western that was taking form in Buddy’s mind since he likes westerns and Belfast seemed like a wild west town. The good guy/bad guy dichotomy is prevalent in the movies he watches, with the righteous battling the wicked, and he can easily apply this to reality when he sees the evil person down the street abusing people and maybe carrying a gun. So the tale isn’t about a certain person’s life, but it is a film in and of itself, and it’s in Buddy’s brain. Fifty years later, it’s clear that Buddy sees things differently than I do, yet there’s a lyrical truth that shows through, which is genuine and probably the source of much drama. Everything in the picture is based on what occurs in a nine-year-old boy’s imagination.”
“I hope Buddy’s narrative will be enjoyed by the audience.” Belfast has its own vitality and buoyancy, which should be reflected in the film, which has a vivid sense of comedy. I want the audience to experience all of the city’s pleasures and tragedies, to cheer for the family, and to realize that they are not alone when comparing their destiny to that of others. If my video can express all of this, then I haven’t wasted my time.”
When the screenplay was finished in time for spring 2020, it was promptly put into action. During the pandemic limitations, casting and pre-production took place during the summer, and the film was one of the first to begin filming in Northern Ireland and England. “One was that the ensemble had to live in a bubble, so they could integrate as a family very rapidly, which was vital for the picture,” adds Branagh. The two boys, Jude Hill (Buddy) and Lewis McAskie (Will), instantly bonded as brothers and were close friends with Moira’s Lara McDonell.
Finding Buddy, whose point of view and creativity are the driving force behind the picture, was the most critical component.
“I’ve always found it quite fascinating when good kid performers portray real situations where you have to ‘set aside childish things,’ as the priest in our picture says,” Branagh adds. “This is what happened in John Boorman’s Hope and Glory, when war accelerates the process of growing up.” In Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Christian Bale is stunning. Goodbye, Youngsters, by Louis Malle, is equally innovative in its depiction of children. For personal reasons, you can see how essential these films were to their makers. They felt driven to share these tales, and they’ve all had a significant influence on our films.”
The global smash Game of Thrones was shot in Northern Ireland, and as a consequence, the Belfast team discovered a fantastic casting infrastructure. Three hundred young boys were auditioned in the first round. The list was trimmed down to thirty applicants after the first uncomfortable long-distance round, then down to twelve contenders before the finalists were chosen via Zoom.
Hill kid could be able to remain…
“We discovered a lad in Jude Hill who can display his blossoming potential while still enjoying being a typical kid,” Branagh explains. He loved football as much as he valued his role in the film. He was serious about the work, well-prepared, and open at the same time. I was hoping for a unique mix from him: to be himself while still bringing the acting subtleties I had in mind. He also exceeded all of my expectations. It’s hard to believe this is his first film since he’s so open to everything and so natural in front of the camera.”
Branagh wanted the adult characters to be as real as possible. “Catriona Balfe, who portrays Mum, is of Irish heritage, grew up on the border, speaks the dialects well, and understands how an Irish family lives,” the director continues. Ciarán Hinds, who portrays Buddy’s granddad, Daddy, grew up in Belfast about a mile from where I grew up.”
Judi Dench has Irish blood in her veins, since her mother is from Dublin, and she is so thoroughly prepared for every part that she can play anybody. These performers performed with such vigor that it astounded me, and their candor enabled them to rapidly bond as a family.”
(More to come…)
UIP is the source of this information.