Hunger, by Steve McQueen



The H block in Belfast’s Maze Prison.

This film captures the development and escalation of protest by the ‘political’ prisoners held here as things moved through ‘The ‘Blanket protest’ onto ‘The Dirty Protest” and finally to ‘The Hunger Strikes’ that claimed Bobby Sands and eight of his compatriot’s lives.

As the end credits of the film show, the enemy, in the form of Margaret Thatcher was ‘not for turning’ and did not grant political status to these men that she considered no more than murderers. They did, however, lead to many concessions – bit by bit.

This astounding movie falls into three very clear sections; the gut wrenching blanket and dirty protest; a long and deeply personal conversation (in one 20 minute take) between Sands and his priest where Sands is asked to justify and then walk away from the impending hunger strike; and finally Sands’ ordeal itself.

Each section has a different pace and personality. Each is desperate in its own way.

This film pulls few punches. The stench of shit is almost palpable in the opening act and the way in which Michael Fassbender brings Sands’ death to the screen is almost unbearable.

But the real triumph of the film is that it takes no political sides and makes no judgements but does not sit on the fence. How? Because it invokes the viewer to do that themselves. Sands is neither a figure to pity or to vilify. It really is quite remarkable that the artist Steve McQueen can achieve this so consistently.

And this is art with a capital A. Every scene is stunningly rendered. The pace, at times snail-like, allows you to consider in real detail the situation these men found themselves in (or created however you want to look at it).

Fassbender’s performance is miraculous.

McQueen though, is the star of the show. One scene in particular when the men slop out by pouring their night’s urine under the doors of the corridor simultaneously is quite beautiful, as is the Hirst-like art that some of them create from their faeces (that’s what makes up the poster image).

Film of the year. No contest.

Incidentally we saw it in the DCA’s Cinema 2. What a cracking screen.

(As we scoffed coffee and fudge doughnuts. How’s that for irony?)

Engraulis encrasicolus

I’ve been away. In Perthshire. On holiday. Hence the neglect to my blog.

But I’m back and I’m gonna start with a rant.

The letter below, that I wrote to Baxters, should be self explanatory…


The Managing Director
Baxters Food Group
(Retail Division)
IV32 7LD

Dear Sir/Madam

I enclose a package of what your delicatessen in the Baxters Food Store in Blackford laughably describes as edible.

Were I in need of a quantity of rubber fish (perhaps to use as a prop in a Pantomime or even, more grandly, a movie) I’d have found the £2.70 I spent in Blackford a very worthwhile and economic investment. After all, to fashion such life-like facsimiles of the common or garden Anchovy fillet (Engraulis encrasicolus) would be no mean feat for such a price (no doubt the Chinese would have to be enlisted for their outstanding skills in mass producing machine-tooled ephemera).

Were I in need of a full colonic cleansing treatment I may have eschewed the four market leaders shown below and opted instead to actually consume these anchovyesque ‘things’ that you sold me.

As it happens my suspicions, which were aroused at point of sale, that this produce would be unfit for human consumption were sadly proven to be justified. They were raised upon observing your super-inefficient sales lady dousing the aforementioned Anchovy-like, gut churning, rubbery specimens in the ancient oil in which they lay, in a vain effort to breathe elasticity into their tired and dehydrated bodies.

Because, on opening the packing a few hours later her elaborate deception unravelled quicker than you can say ‘Salmonella’.

To say these anchovies were past their best would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. These anchovies are so ‘past their best’ that I suspect they may have been caught by a trawler thrashing around in the wake of the Titanic. I may even go further than that and suggest they are the discovered remains of an orgiastic party held by Nefertiti.

Sir; because I have enclosed these vile beasts you will be able to see for yourself what these monsters of the deep could have done to me and my young family before you decide how best to unbesmirch the previously pristine reputation of the Baxters Food Group.

Yours faithfully

Mark Gorman


Yesterday I received a very straightforward letter in response to my own, bereft of humour, enclosing a £10 voucher and an apology.  Ok, fair enough, they took it on the chin, but I’d have liked a bit of repartee (and a hamper).