Kenneth Branagh On ‘Belfast’: “I Wanted To Go Back And Shake Hands With That 9-Year-Old Version Of Myself” – Contenders L.A.

Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh talks about "Belfast" onstage Sunday at Contenders Film: Los Angeles Rich Polk/Deadline

At Sunday’s Contenders Film: Los Angeles awards-season event, Belfast writer-director-producer Kenneth Branagh said how thrilled he was by the film’s opening weekend. “Curiously, with the darkness of some of the subject matter, there’s an enormous amount of joy in the story and in the way the characters find humor as a way of trying to deal with the difficulty of the situation. It seems as though the audiences have really responded to that so we’ve had fantastic feedback afterwards.”

He went on to speak about his own childhood, which inspired the film. “This is a story of one family, one street, that is introduced to the dark period that was the Troubles, that began in the summer of 1969 for us… And it’s the story of that moment that changed my life, changed the lives of our families… That moment when children have to perhaps be assuming a kind of grown-up quality that they weren’t quite ready for. It seems a lot of people are intersecting with that idea themselves, and it seems to bring up a lot of examples of people’s own childhood memories.”

Speaking of his own memories, he said, “I wanted to go back and sort of shake hands with that 9-year-old version of myself, and I wanted to understand what my parents had gone through in terms of the amazing sacrifices that they made for a big move in our lives, that we never spoke about subsequently, ever.”

Belfast tells the story of the fictional version of Branagh during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The film stars Jude Hill as Buddy, Caitriona Balfe as Ma, Jamie Dornan as Pa, Judi Dench as Granny and Ciarán Hinds as Pop.

Belfast premiered at Telluride and later won Toronto’s People’s Choice Award. Focus Features, which boarded Belfast late last year, opened it Friday in North America.

Check out the panel video above.

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