I Am Belfast spreads magic on its UK release
Mark Cousins’ I AM BELFAST received a UK-wide release on 8th April 2016, boosted by a programme of screenings and special events across Belfast and inspiring people across the UK through a special I Am… programme designed to creatively engage people in all things magical about their home cities.
Made possible by Film Hub NI with support from the BFI's Lottery funded Programme Development Fund, screenings of I Am Belfast were supported by special events hosted by QFT (Belfast), BFI Southbank (London), Home (Manchester), Tyneside Cinema (Newcastle), Filmhouse (Edinburgh), Watershed (Bristol) and a special Hull-based screening.
Celebrated cinephile Mark Cousins writes and directs this dreamlike evocation of Belfast, beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle. The film is an emotional journey through the rich, complex and often tragic history of the Northern Irish capital – accompanied by a powerful soundtrack by DJ and film composer David Holmes. I Am Belfast was backed by the BFI in development, production and distribution.
We Are Edinburgh saw Filmhouse host a live cinema event featuring the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive, exploring the city’s beautiful, tourist-friendly façade and the dark underside so beloved of its crime novelists. Poets and musicians were invited to respond to the films, creating a live portrait of a city told from its own point of view.
Young people in Newcastle and Bristol were invited to respond cinematically to their cities in reaction to a film programme celebrating the ‘City as a Symphony’ film genre.
HOME's I Am Belfast season saw Mark Cousins’ film inspire engagement with Manchester’s Irish Language Groups for a bilingual Irish / English poetry reading complemented by a screening of the city’s own film poem, A City Speaks, with an introduction from local historian and cultural broadcaster Manchester CP Lee.
The film’s subject naturally hosted I Am…Belfast, with QFT presenting a programme celebrating colour in film. Audiences also had the opportunity to experience a magical walking tour with the Black Box Belfast.
Alongside the QFT programme, Takeover Film saw the young people of the city create their own city film in response to I Am Belfast. Second Chance Cinema showcased other short films inspired by the city of Belfast, including work by local filmmakers and artists such as Seamus Harahan. Glass Eye Cine in East Belfast hosted screenings of films that inspired Mark in the making of I Am Belfast.
Cousins explains his relationship with the city:
“I lived in Belfast until I was eighteen. My sense of humour, and what moves me, comes from it. I moved away, travelled the world, loved and lost, but always felt like a Belfast boy. In my film I wanted to find out why the city had such a hold on me and so, over about 18 months, I walked every street, filming things I saw. My feet got sore, but my eyes opened. I wanted to capture bits of the city the media doesn’t show. I wanted a different song of the city, I think. I didn’t shirk the sad things, in fact I tried to dig into them, but I also wanted to film the colour, sound, femaleness, disjointedness and wildness of the place. Walking the streets gave me some honest documentary footage, and then we tried to add beauty to that – a six minute crane shot, a wall of gold, the beauty of Helena Bereen’s face, a Van Morrison song - because the city is all these things. You can see the valley of tears, but also the mountain top, in all cities. We’ve tried to show both in I am Belfast.”
Susan Picken, Head of QFT, said:
“ ‘I Am Belfast’ is a uniquely personal portrait of our city by one of our leading film talents. It perfectly captures Belfast’s beauty, humour and warmth as well as evoking the tensions and traumas of the city’s past. It offers a new way of looking at and thinking about the cities in which we live and in finding moments of magic in the midst of the everyday. We are delighted that Mark has allowed us to use his film as the inspiration for this truly exciting programme of events.”
We invited audiences to tell the story of their own relationships with their cities via www.iambelfast.tumblr.com, where videos, images, gifs and memes of the city could all be shared on all social media platforms, joining the conversation with the rest of the UK via #magichere
Mark Cousins presented I Am Belfast at:
7th April –BFI Southbank, London
8th April – HOME, Manchester
10th April – QFT, Belfast
11th April – Filmhouse, Edinburgh
12th April – Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle