Battle of the
Hunger Striker Films

Two very different movies have recently been made based on the 1981 Hunger Strike by repubican political prisoners in Long Kesh (Maze), the notorious prison located outside of Belfast. 

“ H3, ” released in 2001, was written by former prisoner Lawrence McKeown, who joined the hunger strike and fasted for seventy days before his family intervened to authorize medical attention.  It’s a powerful film with an insider’s view.  

Because McKeown wrote it and ex-prisoners played roles (usually as guards!) it becomes an authentic telling of the tribulations faced by prisoners and the solidarity and humor with which they faced both the prison system and Margaret Thatcher.  Hartford INA members first viewed it on a trip to Belfast and then brought it to Hartford for a fundraising event.

“Hunger” was directed by  Steve McQueen (the other one), released in 2008.  It’s quite a contrast to H3 and does not stand up nearly as well.  There is almost no dialogue (very arty) but misses the point of the struggle in many ways. 

The one exception takes place in the middle of the film where Bobby Sands and a priest argue the moral and political controversies about the tactical use of the hunger strike.  This well-defined moment could stand alone as a short film.  

The rest of the movie is very much like "torture porn": every sore and drop of blood is thrust at the viewer (along with all the other body fluids).

One thing both movies have in common: bad titles.  Wasn’t Hunger a vampire flick?  Isn’t “H3” the newest Hummer model?  Anyway, save your money on Hunger; try to find a copy of H3 instead. n