Friday, April 24, 2009

Hunger (Rhoades)

“Hunger” Is Harsh Irish Prison Drama

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Better have a sandwich before you read this review. “Hunger” is a movie about an Irish Republican Army protestor named Bobby Sands, who died in HM Prison Maze following a 66-day hunger strike in 1981. He was 27 at the time.

“Hunger” is showing at the Tropic Cinema.

Don’t confuse this film or its director Steve McQueen. He’s not the famed star of “Bullitt” and “Papillon.” Nor is this the 1983 vampire flick starring David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, and Catherine Deneuve.

Rather, this meticulous tale of slow starvation for a cause stars Michael Fassbender (“Band of Brothers,” “300”) as the fatalistic young IRA protestor.

Robert Gerard Sands joined the IRA during the Troubles of 1972. His political commitment put a strain on his marriage and his wife eventually left him.

After several bouts in prison for his support of the Republican cause, he was again convicted of gun possession in 1977 and sentenced to 14 years.

A forceful personality, he was chosen as commanding officer of the IRA prisoners at Long Kesh (as Maze Prison was called) and later elected a member of the United Kingdom Parliament during his hunger strike.

The prisoners’ rights strike centered around Five Demands:
• Not wearing prison uniforms;
• Not doing prison work;
• Free association with other prisoners;
• One visit, one letter, and one parcel per week;
• Restoration of any rights lost due to the protest.
Nine other IRA prisoners died from the hunger strike.

After Sands’ death, recruitment into the Irish Republican Army hit an all-time high.

This film by noted visual artist Steve McQueen focuses on the last six weeks of Bobby Sands’ life and the physical and mental impact of slow starvation on him. It’s a grim tale, replete with all the details: bleeding sores, kidney failure, stomach ulcers, and the inability to stand.
McQueen’s art films are typically projected onto walls of an art gallery rather than theater screens. Usually shot in black and white, Andy Warhol have been cited as the influence of these minimalist films.

“Hunger” is a more traditional Technicolor telling. McQueen won the prestigious Caméra d’Or award for first-time filmmakers at 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

The raw brutality of prison life is shown with unblinking starkness. In this era of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, you’ll watch this movie about the treatment of political prisoners in a new light.
[from Solares Hill]

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