Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland and the Troubles - a journey in film

Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall Image copyright PA
Image caption Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall star as Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley in The Journey

Love them or loathe them - films based on the Troubles seem to go hand-in-hand with box office success.

But whether it's the dodgy accents or far-fetched scripts, it seems we all have an opinion about the films that attempt to launch wee Northern Ireland onto the big screen.

The latest such offering, The Journey, is a fictional account of the relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Its writer, Colin Bateman, has a theory about what makes a great local film.

"In mathematical terms - the higher the budget the worse the movie, quite possibly.

"The ones that work best are the small films, like Cal or Hunger."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brad Pitt is not fondly remembered for his Northern Ireland accent in The Devil's Own

Film critic Mike Catto has watched many films that have used Northern Ireland as a backdrop.

He said: "There are films we laugh at, like Brad Pitt with a bad accent in The Devil's Own and Mickey Rourke with an even worse accent in a Prayer for the Dying, it was just so far removed from the reality we know."

However, there are a number of films he believes should be praised.

"For every really bad one there is one really worthy, for example Titanic Town with Julie Walters."

Image caption Titanic Town, starring Julia Walters, is a film worth remembering according to critic Mike Catto

Ian McElhinney, who stars in The Journey, is one of Northern Ireland's best-known actors.

He would like to see films focus on previously unheard stories.

"I would quite like to see stories that are not necessarily to do with the violence, because I think there was quite a lot of normality in our world - but it is never reflected on the screen," he said.

However, Colin Bateman says he doesn't believe we should stop trying with films about the Troubles.

"I don't think you can ever have enough, in some respects," he said.

"If you think of something like the Vietnam War, some of the best movies did not come out until 10, 20 or 30 years afterwards."

But actress and screenwriter Bronagh Taggart thinks these types of films are only part of the story of Northern Ireland.

Image caption Actor Ian McElhinney says more Northern Ireland films should reflect normality

Television series like Game of Thrones and Line of Duty have all been filmed here in recent years and the BBC series, The Fall, was shot in Belfast.

She said: "I think a lot of people know the very political films that come out of Northern Ireland.

"They are quite high profile, but I don't think they are the only ones and I think the new writers, directors and producers making films and telling stories at the minute are telling a mix of political and personal and I think it will always be like that in Northern Ireland."

What is clear is that Northern Ireland will continue to be a home to filmmakers and producers.

It also seems certain that, when it comes to capturing the story of this place on film, our troubled past will never be too far away.

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