Based on his childhood growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, Branagh wrote and directed Belfast, Nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) listens to bits and pieces about The Troubles in Ireland. He sees some violence in the street, but he is more concerned about playing with his friends, and why his father (Jamie Dornan) is gone for so long.
Buddy watches a lot of movies and television, arts which become Branagh’s specialty. He sees his father as the hero of the big screen and his mother (Caitriona Balfe) as his safe haven. His grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds) also live in Belfast and are stable in their lives. Plus, he’s also a guy who’s looking for love.
Branagh said his family was caught up in The Troubles, and recalls seeing a riot in the streets the way he portrayed Buddy watching it. He wrote the film 50 years later, imagining himself as Buddy with an adult’s point of view, in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Belfast Was able to film on location in Northern Ireland and England under COVID safety protocols.
Branagh loaded the film with Van Morrison music—eight catalog hits and one original. The film ends with Dornan and Balfe dancing to “Everlasting Love” performed by Love Affair.
Belfast premiered at the Telluride Film Festival before playing at Toronto, BFI London and other festivals. It opened in the US on November 12, since then, Branagh’s screenplay won a Golden Globe among several Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations, while SAG nominated the ensemble cast and singled out Balfe’s performance for the nominations.
Click below to read Branagh’s screenplay.