Hunger: the movie

History of the hunger strike of 1981

In 1981, ten men died for the freedoms of many in a hunger strike at the H-Blocks of Long Kesh Prison, Occupied Northern Ireland.  Ten young men began the agonizing protest of a hunger strike until death to secure the human rights and dignity of Political Status for all Irish Republican Political Prisoners. 

As young men with their lives ahead of them, these men would never have been imprisoned but for the invasion of an army into their country. As Irish Republican Political Prisoners, these men saw that the pursuit of liberty and sovereignty for their native land was not criminal.  They refused to be labelled as criminals, and the battle for Political Status was launched from their prison cells.

Early attempts

Earlier efforts at acquiring Political Status had been met with unfulfilled promises from the British government.  A Blanket Protest and No-Wash Protest, followed by the horrible Dirty Protest, had galvanized the male and female Republican prisoners for five long years but it resulted in no real gains toward Political Status. A decision was made by the prisoners to commit to a Hunger Strike. 

Their Five Demands were:

  • The right to organize their own educational and recreational facilities
  • The right to one weekly visit, letter and parcel
  • The right to free association with Republican political prisoners
  • The right as political prisoners not to do prison work
  • The right not to wear a prisoner uniform

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Hunger

Hunger is a movie directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, a prisoner on the 1981 hunger strike in Northern Ireland.

It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, claiming the prestigious Caméra d'Or award for first-time filmmakers. It went on to claim the Sydney Film Prize at the Sydney Film Festival, the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics, best picture from the Evening Standard British Film Awards, and gained two BAFTA nominations, winning one. The film was also nominated for eight awards at the 2009 IFTAs, claiming six at the event.

The film stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the Provisional IRA volunteer and MP who led the second IRA hunger strike and took part in the no-wash protest (led by Brendan "The Dark" Hughes) in which prisoners tried to claim political status when it was removed by the British government in 1976. It plays out the events in the Maze Prison in the period running up to the hunger strike and Sands' death.

Critical Reception

Hunger gained considerable critical acclaim by critics, audiences and at festivals all over the world. The film has a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes based on many reviews with an average score of 7.8 out of 10. The consensus opinion states "Unflinching, uncompromising, vivid and vital, Steve McQueen's challenging debut is not for the faint hearted, but it's still a richly rewarding retelling of troubled times." Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 82 (out of 100) based on 25 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "universal acclaim".

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