Writer/director Kenneth Branagh has recruited an incredible ensemble cast to bring the story of his family’s decision to flee Ireland as the Troubles began to erupt in in the late 60s. Belfast captures the tumultuous time where violence replaced the idyllic streets of Northern Ireland where Branagh was raised. During lockdown the the Oscar-nominated actor, writer and director decided it was time to share his story.
The Belfast movie’s Instagram also shared a teaser a few days ago.
The Kenneth Branagh directed film stars Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and newcomer Jude Hill. Branagh had always had it in the back of his mind, the need to tell the story of his family fleeing Belfast for the U.K. He used his time during lockdown to cast his mind back 50 years and set it to paper. Branagh explains, “It felt as though the gestation period was about 50 years. There are some things that need to come out and when they do come out, they tumble out swiftly. I was not distracted by other projects or anything else. For some people the lockdown was an aching void, but for me I was lucky enough to fall into a creative drive that was all-consuming.”
As a young boy, Branagh was confronted with the terrible news that his family would be moving from the town he loved. “A rupture happened for me in the summer of 1969,” says Branagh. “There was a moment in life where things were settled and happy, and then immediately and instantly they were unhappy and unsettled. The atmosphere of the streets themselves was a very electric one. There was singing and music, and it was one where laughter or entertainment could burst forth at any moment, but so could violence. The possibility of violence hung in the air.”
During lockdown Branagh was able to write the script, but was obviously not able to begin shooting the film. He had wanted to make his film in his home country, but in the end, they shot the film outside of London where the studio could manage the rigid COVID rules required. Jamie Dornan described his experience working with Branagh during the pandemic, saying, “It was the most fun of all the jobs I’ve ever done, and that stems from Ken. He created a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s paradoxical, because there was a pandemic happening, but there was a lot of laughter. There was just a sense of we’re running on fumes – let’s make the most of it.”
The young boy in the center of it all, Jude Hill, would be making his first film ever. “He was a rough diamond,” says Branagh. “On the first two days, my single direction was ‘Jude, stop looking at the camera. Jude, don’t look at the camera. Jude, what mustn’t you do? Look at the camera.’ But he polished up quickly and the scales fell from his eyes, and he delivered a marvelous performance.”
Belfast had its premiere last night, and Jamie Dornan took the stage to serenade the crowd, with his co-stars dancing along. The insta was captioned, “Jamie Dornan serenades the crowd at last night’s #BELFAST premiere with his irresistible rendition of Everlasting Love.”
Fans were thrilled, gushing, “I’ve watched this so many times I lost count. The fun and happiness expressed here is spectacular[heart emojis] it has made my day so much better, ” and “He’s made a fave song of mine mean so much more. Love it! On a constant loop right now.” Belfast hit theaters November 12.