Sir Kenneth Branagh found it hard to get financing for Belfast
Sir Kenneth Branagh struggled to get financing for 'Belfast'.
The 61-year-old director's latest project - which is based on his own childhood experiences of fleeing Northern Ireland to the UK in 1970 when the Troubles started - has been a huge success and is nominated for the prestigious Best Picture honour at the Academy Awards on Sunday (27.03.22) and the filmmaker admitted he's gone through "a hell of a journey" to even make the movie.
Reflecting on Steven Spielberg's praise for the film at a recent lunch for Oscar nominees, Kenneth told Sunday Times Culture magazine: "If you’re trying to raise money for a black-and-white film about the Troubles in 2021, I can tell you, it’s not something people have a huge enthusiasm for.
“I’ve gone from people saying, ‘Hey, it’s a lovely script but nobody’s going to see this, Ken,’ to Steven saying that. It was a hell of a journey.”
The movie is said to have finally started discussions between generations about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and Kenneth is proud of the role played by his film.
He said: “I believe in the power of storytelling.
"The political process has lurched from crisis to crisis and there is understandable psychic baggage that children of the Troubles carry. It is to do with identity, loneliness and purpose.
"And it is true that in the part of north Belfast where the film is set there is the highest rate of suicide among young people in Europe. We need to shift that from being simply a stigma and judgment and on to it being a conversation.”
The script took decades for him to write, in part because it was a subject so rarely discussed.
Catriona Balfe, who stars in the movie, said: “Ken said it took so long to write because his parents never talked about the Troubles. There was a stoicism. It’d be indulgent to speak about this stuff. People repressed the trauma.”
And Kenneth was worried about how it would be perceived in Belfast because it is a place where "having ideas above your station is a cardinal sin”.
He added: “It could look as if you were parading yourself as something special, when everyone had at least as tough a time.
“Myself and Jamie [Dornan] were particularly concerned about that when the film opened there.
“I’m old enough to know the film is not everyone’s cup of tea. But it passed the slagging-off test that is part of the Irish experience.”