Variety, the bible of Hollywood publications, has given Black 47 the first ever movie set in Famine times in Ireland a rave review.
The movie has opened to critical acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival and is expected on general release shortly.
Variety critic Jessica Kiang writes that Irish director Lance Daly “brings menace and power to a lean revenge Western that does overdue cinematic justice to famine-blighted Connemara.”
She notes there has been very little moviemaking or indeed, literature devoted to the Famine era.
“Compared to other eras in Ireland’s history, there is no great wealth of contemporary Famine literature, few photographs document its excesses and even fewer films.”
As a result she says “This may well be the first encounter international audiences will have had with the Great Hunger, and for them Daly delivers a resonant, beautifully performed Irish Western that benefits from the exotic sound of Irish Gaelic spoken as a living language, and the brackish majesty of cinematographer Declan Quinn’s wide vistas.”
Kiang writes, “The appreciation of beauty, and the creation of art to celebrate it, is easier achieved when there’s something in your belly, which accounts for why so little of it remains to us from this time and place.”
For today’s Irish audiences, or anyone acquainted with the full freight of the word “Sassenach” as it’s used here (it simply means “Englishman” but carries all sorts of pejorative associations in context), there’s more to Black 47: There’s the satisfaction of seeing an ancient, rankling injustice addressed, be it only through fiction.”
Kiang writes that “ Daly’s characterful, slow-burn tale is a well-crafted experiment in grafting genre onto disregarded history. And it’s needed, because mass starvation has never really been the stuff of epic cinema.”
Producer Macdara Kelleher said, “It’s an honor to be premiering Black 47 at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals, alongside truly great filmmakers. There’s a strong history of major films launching in Berlin and we can’t wait for the world to see this epic Irish famine story.”
The film is bound to resonate deeply with Irish Americans, whose history in many ways, begins with the Famine.