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Why did the Palestinian flag fly over Dublin City hall and many other city halls in Ireland last summer. And why is Ireland the only country to boycott Israeli goods made in the illegal territories. The answer is found in the compelling new picture about the Irish Potato Famine, Black 47 which opens September 28 in the USA.
Black 47 is a genre western revenge thriller, reminiscent of a Clint Eastwood shoot-em up or a 70’s Charles Bronson Death Wish film.
It is also a subversive parable told from the standpoint of the colonized about the injustice of occupation, the horrors of the Great Famine of the late 1840s (in which over 1 million Irish starved to death and another 1.5 million emigrated), and the moral logic of terrorism.
The story centers on Martin Feeney, a deserter from the British Army who returns to the west of Ireland in 1847—the worst year of the great famine–to find the country in the midst of an enveloping holocaust. The countryside is a Beckettian moonscape, empty except for starving, ill clothed, and diseased people who live in hovels or outside in fields. Feeney learns that his mother has died of starvation and his brother has been hanged for stabbing the bailiff who evicted evicted the family from their home. Enraged by the injustice and oppression Feeney becomes a terrorist.
For the rest of the movie the British chase Feeney as Feeney prowls the countryside seeking revenge against the villains who have murdered and starved his family.
There is much to enjoy in this film as a genre picture. It is delightful to see the lethally repressive British rulers get their comeupance and history righted as the villains get what they deserve. The macabre whimsicality with which the villains are dispatched is worth the price of admission.
But the picture is not principally about Feeney and the villains he chases. They are background characters. Famine and the brutal British repression are the major characters.
The parallels between contemporary Palestine and Ireland of the 19th century are startling: land confiscation; theft of natural resources; demonization of the indigenous population and their culture; hunger; and lack of basic rights.
There are differences: many Irish had what most Palestinians and all Gazans don’t have– a means of escape. Over a million Irish took their chances by getting on vessels known as coffin ships to sail to America. Gazans have no escape from their outdoor prison and travel by Palestinians of the West Bank is severely restricted by the Israelis.
After I saw the movie I checked out one of the films stars, Irish actor Stephen Rea. No surprise that he is a Palestinian activist who supports BDS.
Black 47 is a subversive spitball hurled for the desperate. It brings your blood to a boil.
It is a must see picture.