Una Ni Dhonghaile interview: ‘Belfast’ editor
“Thanks to the beautiful script and the incredible performances of the cast, it was a joy for me, because it was sort of like music,” editor Úna Ní Dhonghaíle declares about working on Kenneth Branagh‘s semi-autobiographical coming of age fable “Belfast,” which became a labor of love for the editor. For Ní Dhonghaíle most valued Branagh’s collaborative approach, which she says allowed her to “edit the film with simplicity and authenticity,” she explains, “to make sure that it felt truthful to us so hopefully it would feel truthful to an audience.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Focus Features’ “Belfast” is drawn from five-time Oscar-nominated writer and director Branagh’s childhood experiences, following nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), his beloved Pa (Jamie Dornan) and his protective Ma (Caitríona Balfe) as they weigh up whether to stay in Belfast with his loving grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Oscar winner Judi Dench) after their neighborhood erupts in sectarian violence.
“Belfast” is an unsurprisingly personal film as it brings Branagh’s childhood to life on screen, contemplating how The Troubles of late 1960s Northern Ireland shaped his life and the lives of his family. When she first read Branagh’s script and then again when it came time to piece the film together, Ní Dhonghaíle was struck by how the film attempts to give audiences a different perspective on his hometown.
“It was the most beautiful love letter to the city of Belfast to his beautiful family and his neighbors of all persuasions,” she explains. “My father always spoke to me as we were growing up about the great friendships between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland prior to The Troubles and I’ve actually always been saying privately that I wish we could make a film that actually celebrated those type of things,” Ní Dhonghaíle says, adding that when she “read Ken’s script, I just loved what he’d done. He’s just done something that really chimed with me, that I recognized.”
“On a very personal level, I just love the fact that he is giving voice to the humanity of people of Northern Ireland. Belfast, as a word, for me growing up as a teenager, was infused with the violence of The Troubles. I think he sort of reclaimed that name,” she says. “For me it was just a celebration of humanity. If we can be good to each other, we can all actually benefit from a quality of life and compassion and humanity that is universal, regardless of the color of our skin or our creator.”