Films & Schedules

  • Hunger

  • Steve McQueen

United Kingdom
96 minutes

Production Company:
Blast! Films/Film 4
Executive Producer:
Jan Younghusband, Peter Carlton, Linda James, Edmund Coulthard, Iain Canning
Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch
Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen
Production Designer:
Tom McCullagh
Sean Bobbitt
Joe Walker
Paul Davies
David Holmes, Leo Abrahams
Principal Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon

Canadian Distributor:
Maple Pictures
US Distributor:
IFC Films
International Sales Agent:
Icon Entertainment International

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A tour-de-force debut by renowned British visual artist Steve McQueen, Hunger follows the final six weeks in the life of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands. Displaying a breathtaking control of image, sound, pacing and tone, McQueen delivers a precise and devastating portrait of political violence both as it is inflicted and, most especially, as it is felt.

In 1981, the conflict in Northern Ireland was a deadly serious battle. In graceful glimpses, Hunger establishes the context of murderous attacks by the Irish Republican Army on the one hand and ruthless repression by Margaret Thatcher's government on the other. Thatcher's broadcast speeches, for instance, are a ghostly occasional presence on the soundtrack. The focus stays on the men of the Maze Prison, which was located outside Belfast – specifically Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), an officer working within one of the prison's infamous H-Blocks; Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan), a young and terrified new prisoner; Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), Davey's cellmate and personal guide to the harsh realities of the Maze; and H-Block leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender).

In acutely observed scenes, Sands and his fellow inmates launch a protest, demanding to be treated as political detainees and refusing to wear prisoners' uniforms or to bathe. Conflicts escalate, prisoners are beaten and, as the dispute spreads beyond the Maze, no officer remains secure. It is this unrest that leads Sands to the extreme decision to begin a hunger strike.

McQueen finds the telling detail in each of these events – the orgiastic ecstasy of a prison beating, the quiet that hangs just before violence strikes or, in the film's audacious, extended set piece, the vigour of a political argument with a prison priest. Throughout all of this, Fassbender gives himself fully to the role of Sands. Whether portraying the riveting political debate or his character's shocking physical deterioration, this is a performance of commanding skill and commitment.

Cameron Bailey

Steve McQueen was born in London, England, and studied at Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmiths College, after which he spent a year at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. His art has been shown in museums around the world and has been acquired by major institutions, including the Guggenheim, the Tate and the Centre Pompidou. Hunger (08) marks his filmmaking debut.

Cadillac People's Choice Award