Tuesday 24 April 2018

Here's what critics are saying about Lance Daly's 'famine film' Black 47 following Berlin Film Festival premiere

Black 47
Black 47
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Irish film Black 47 has received mostly positive reviews from international press following its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Written and directed by Lance Daly, who previously helmed the beautiful Kisses and Life's a Breeze, it's the first Irish film to tackle the Great Hunger.

Set in 1847 it stars Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, James Frecheville, Freddie Fox and Irish stars Stephen Rea, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene and Bary Keoghan.

Frecheville plays Feeney, an Irish soldier who has abandoned his post with the British Army to return to his west of Ireland home on to find his mother starved to death, his brother hanged, and his sister in law and her children starving.  As he sets out for revenge, a violent British soldier (Weaving) is sent to track him down.

Reviews have been mostly positive, led by Variety's Jessica Kiang who states, “And so this may well be the first encounter international audiences will have had with the Great Hunger, and for them Daly delivers a resonant, beautifully performed Irish Western that benefits from the exotic sound of Irish Gaelic spoken as a living language, and the brackish majesty of cinematographer Declan Quinn’s wide vistas.”

It earned 4 stars from theupcoming.co.uk which says it "has achieved an honest portrayal of a complex chapter of Irish history that is both intelligent and highly entertaining".

Indiewire gives the film a solid 3 stars: "While the script is far too spotty and unfocused for the film to be anything more than the sum of its parts, the setting — and the set-pieces that Daly creates from it — is enough to prevent this unlikely genre mash from being a blight of its own."

Screendaily.com, meanwhile, says, the film "will also play best at home, where the context is widely understood and appreciated and still haunts the country today".  However, it adds, "Using the ‘Great Hunger’ as a backdrop for a revenge western is an interesting way to exorcise old ghosts, but the end result drains pathos from the tragedy while muting The Proposition-style genre elements."

Cineuropa describes it as "well meaning if not entirely successful" while The Hollywood Reporter's review is overwhelmingly negative. 

"The first reaction that Irish writer-director Lance Daly's Berlin world premiere provokes is surprise that no filmmakers have exploited this connection before. The second is disappointment at how many times Daly shoots himself in the foot with this dour, sluggish, cliché-choked thriller. Partly backed with both state film and TV funds from Ireland, Black 47 feels more like a small-screen misfire than the grand cinematic epic that this rich story deserves. Theatrical gunpowder is likely to be damp."

Black 47 is the opening gala at the Audi International Dublin Film Festival on Wednesday evening.

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