STEVE COOKE AATA
Hebden Bridge Picture House and BRANAGH'S Belfast
By Seamus Kelly
Hebden Bridge Picture House opened in 1921 and has been used as a cinema ever since, with just a handful of breaks due to flooding and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Grade 2 listed building still retains some of its lovely Art deco features.
Celebrating its centenary this year the Picture House will be screening new releases as well as a few nostalgic specials including The Jungle Book, Casablanca, Back to the Future and the beautiful 1926 silhouette animation ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’ by Lotte Reiniger based on stories from Arabian Nights.
Settling down in the to watch Kenneth Branagh’s film, Belfast, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Whatever those expectations they would have fallen short of the reality. This is a very powerful and moving film with excellent, black and white, cinematography which makes you feel almost as if you were there rather than watching from the outside.
Based on Branagh’s own experiences growing up in Belfast the film focuses on the period from 1969 with the escalation of “the Troubles” and the deployment of the British Army. The film shows some of the violence, rioting and threat experienced by people living in a mixed neighbourhood and trying to get on with their lives.
The starring role, Buddy growing up amidst the hatred and confusion of the time, is played by 11-year-old Jude Hill who performed in happy, sad and emotional moments with great maturity. Cairán Hinds as Pop (Grandad), Catriona Balfe as Ma and Jamie Dornan as Pa are all excellent, and Dame Judi Dench is superb as Granny. Lewis McAskie as Will; local hard man and wannabe loyalist leader, is suitably menacing yet conflicted.
The film reminds us of a kind of community that no longer exists, where children play on the street with the other local children, where everyone knows everyone by name and children, parents and grandparents live in the same street. The nostalgia for those things is of course tempered as the troubles erupt and neighbours are forced out because they have the wrong religion.
For those who remember those times in Ireland the divisions and choices, “either you’re with us or you’re against us”, are brought starkly into relief. Branagh’s film may be recorded through slightly rose-tinted lenses but there was hardly a dry eye in the house even before the emotional final scenes.