Filming begins this week on new Irish film “Black ‘47,” a western-style thriller set in Connemara during the worst year of the Irish famine. Starring Australian actor Hugo Weaving, ("The Matrix," "The Lord of the Rings" and "V for Vendetta") and Irish star Moe Dunford ("Vikings" and "Patrick’s Day"), the principal photography for the new Irish co-production began in Luxembourg yesterday, where it will continue until December 22. The movie is an adaption of the award-winning Irish-language short “An Ranger” (The Ranger), which follows the path of a young Connaught Ranger named Feeney as he seeks revenge for the death of his family during the famine, all whilst on the run from a former army comrade.

Directed by Lance Daly (‘Kisses’), ‘Black ‘47’ is set is the year 1847, commonly nicknamed “Black ‘47” in Ireland, as it is regarded as the pinnacle of suffering during the Great Hunger.

When Feeney returns to Ireland after fighting in the Afghan War with the British Army, he discovers his family was thrown out of their home and died in the poorhouse in his absence. Enraged at the manner in which his family was treated, he embarks on a one-man vendetta to bring justice to these famine victims, working his way up through the Irish political and social hierarchy to destroy all those who left his family to die.

On his tail, is Hannah, played by Weaving, an aging British soldier, a famed tracker of deserters and old friend of Feeney’s, who is sent to stop the young soldier before he can encourage revolution among the battered and starved people.

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“It’s like a 'Heart of Darkness' story: sort of 'Apocalypse Now' on horseback during the potato famine,” Weaving told The Sydney Morning Herald last month.

The actor for the principal role of Feeney has not yet been named but was played by Owen McDonnell in the short. Dunford’s role is also unspecified, as of yet.  

The original short was developed by PJ Dillon and Pierce Ryan, who wrote the screenplay for the current feature-length adaptation, and set five years after the end of the famine in 1854. The 2008 short delves into the horrors that a man serving in the British Army missed out on while facing his own horrors abroad, described by co-writer Ryan as “a western set during the Irish famine.”

“Black ‘47” is also set to take on this western theme, looking at events before those in “The Ranger” with a promise of more blood and more mud.

The short kicked off its four-week stay in Luxembourg yesterday, while crews will also shoot in Ireland during this time. The full production will return to Ireland in January where they will record exteriors in Wicklow and Connemara.

Last week, the famine film’s producers – Fastnet Films in Ireland and Samsa Film in Luxembourg – held a casting call in Dublin hoping to find scores of actors to fill the roles of Irish famine victims. The call was for “Irish men and women with gaunt faces and thin bodies” for specific and background roles in the upcoming production.

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