I AM BELFAST || 2015, UK || Documentary || Directed by – Mark Cousins / Written by – Mark Cousins / Produced by – Jim Anderson, John Archer, Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn, Chris Martin, Cian Smith / Music by – David Holmes / Cinematography by – Christopher Doyle / Editing by – Timo Langer / Production design – Shane Bunting / Running time: 84 mins.
After his compelling and personal filmic explorations of such places as Mexico, Albania and Sardinia, filmmaker Mark Cousins returns to visit the place where he was born and where he grew up: the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland.
The city has forever been associated with bigotry, violence, guerrilla warfare and the Troubles. This is particularly true of its representation in cinema, which is why I Am Belfast is so surprising in its different depiction of the city. The film is structured around an imagined conversation with a personification of Belfast as a 10,000-year-old woman. She talks about her history – not necessarily in chronological order – in a warm and soothing voice. That the film should represent a desire to change some things about Belfast here now is shown in a stand-out sequence in which the director stages a symbolic funeral for the “last living bigot in Northern Ireland.” Furthermore, in his more impulsive walks around the city, he might occasionally gaze upon an ordinary sight and reveal something about it that makes it seem special, perhaps even a re-interpretation of what appears on the screen. His is also a journey of re-discovery.
He is not alone in his journey. Although Cousins, as usual, shot much of the film himself on portable equipment, fellow cinematographer Christopher Doyle contributed significantly to the film with stunning visuals and poetic camera movements, adding a further pinch of beauty to I Am Belfast, work of love. – 4/5