‘Belfast’ writer/director Kenneth Branagh: ‘I’ve never felt more strongly about the value of the community of film’

“Film festivals, critics, the awards conversation — it’s never been more important than now to the lifeblood of film, particularly film in cinemas. The attention brought to ‘Belfast’ because of being part of this conversation is what still keeps it in cinemas,” says Kenneth Branagh about what makes the Oscar buzz for his semiautobiographical drama so meaningful during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Watch our exclusive video interview with Branagh above.

“Belfast” is set in 1969, when nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) and his family are caught in the middle of the sudden sectarian violence that rocks their neighborhood during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. “It’s been going since November 12,” Branagh adds about his film’s longevity in theaters. “That wouldn’t have been possible without these kinds of conversations. So I’ve never felt more strongly and passionately about the value of the joined up conversation of the entire community of film.” And “in a way it doesn’t matter what the opinion is,” because whether reactions to any given film are positive or negative, they contribute to a prevailing enthusiasm for the art form.

Branagh, of course, is no stranger to the awards conversation, having been nominated for five Oscars in five different categories: Best Director and Best Actor for “Henry V” (1989), Best Live Action Short for “Swan Song” (1992), Best Adapted Screenplay for “Hamlet” (1996), and Best Supporting Actor for “My Week with Marilyn” (2011). This year, in addition to Best Director, he’s eligible for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture, and if he lands those noms it would mean he’s been recognized in seven categories, which would be a new record. So he’s “thankful that we’re in a business that has a community that takes the trouble, yes to criticize, but often, and thank God, to celebrate.”

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