"Hunger" which was released in 2008, is set in the notorious H-blocks of the Maze prison in Belfast in 1981, when convicted IRA men were fighting against the withdrawal of Special Category Status, which no longer recognised them as political prisoners.
They refused to wear prison uniforms, remaining naked except for wool blankets, and when prevented from using the toilets unless they were dressed, they took part in a so-called ‘dirty protest’ where smeared cell walls with human waste.
And when that failed to get them the attention they wanted, they started the hunger strikes.
Bobby Sands, a 27-year-old father-of-one, who had been convicted for possession of a firearm (14 years), was the first of 10 men to die of starvation after 66 days.
- In this scene, Father Muran (Liam Cunningham) tries to talk Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) out of the hunger strike, he and other IRA prisoners plan of beginning.
- Michael Fassbender fasted (with a medical monitoring) for 10 weeks and lost 3 stones before filming.
- To prepare this 17 minutes single shot scene, Liam Cunningham and him lived together in Belfast and rehearsed the scene up to 15 times a day. On the day of filming, they only needed 4 takes.
The "blanketmen" asked for:
- the right not to wear a prison uniform;
- the right not to do prison work;
- the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits;
- the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
- full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
You might remember British Prime Minister
As the prisoners' demands weren't conceded, they began the hunger strike in March.
Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes (25), Raymond McCreesh (24), Patsy O'Hara (23), Joe McDonnell (29), Martin Hurson (24), Kevin Lynch (25), Kieran Doherty (25), Thomas McElwee (23) and Michael Devine (27) died between March and August.
Thirteen prisoners still refused to eat.
The strike was called off at 3:15 pm on 3 October when it became clear that the families of the remaining hunger strikers would intervene to save their lives.
Did you know that Bernie Sanders, then mayor in the City of Burlington, Vermont, wrote a letter to Thatcher, asking her to end the “humiliation and degrading treatment” of the prisoners ?
This is the first film directed by Steve McQueen and his first collaboration with Michael Fassbender before "Shame" (2011) and "Twelve Years A Slave" (2013).
Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
If you don't want to watch the film because of Michael Fassbender but still are interested in this part of the Irish History, the documentary is a must-see in my opinion.
This is one of my favorite films (not in the sense where I can watch it lots of times because I can't stomach it to be honest, but it definitely is an unforgettable one. Both Fassbender and Cunningham are brillant in it.)