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Berlin Facetime: Director Lance Daly on ‘Black 47’

Lance Daly’s “Black 47” is a potent mix of social drama and violent revenge story, centering its intense action during Ireland’s Great Famine. Daly recruited an exceptionally strong cast for “Black 47,” including Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Jim Broadbent, Moe Dunford and Barry Keoghan. With the film premiering Feb. 16 at Berlinale, Daly spoke with Variety about his inspirations, challenges, and what’s on the horizon. By Nick Clement

What inspired you to tell this story?

The Great Famine of 1845-1852 was the single most important event in Irish history. It had a catastrophic effect on the country’s population, and considering the amazing generation of Irish filmmakers that came before me, I was stunned that this period had never before been dramatized in cinema. After making the film, I can understand why…

Who are some of your influences?

I’m inspired by Leone, Kurosawa and Peckinpah, and we screened and debated “The Duellists,” “The New World,” “Aguirre Wrath of God,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Revenant.”

What were your biggest challenges?

Aside from the near impossibility of portraying the unimaginable horror of An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger) with an apocalyptic landscape of convincingly emaciated humans, filming “Black 47” was a challenge in almost every other regard. We re-created 19th century costumes and props from a period without photographic or recorded documents, and found locations which represent a world that no longer exists. We shot through winter across two countries (Ireland and Luxembourg) with many stunts, horses and firearms (using real gunpowder). And we did it in seven weeks on a limited budget. We also had the great responsibility of doing justice to a very real tragedy in which a million people died and another million left their homes, never to return.

How does “Black 47” fit into the revenge genre?

It’s a revenge movie, but it’s also got a complex sociopolitical element with great actors playing smart fireside dialogue. In cinema, there’s a relish and abandon in executing those who have wronged us — it’s cathartic because it offers some promise of wiping the slate clean. But often the genre can slip into meaningless sadism and it becomes more about torture. There’s a bigger audience for that but that’s the line I didn’t want to cross.

What’s coming up next?

I’m working on a science fiction piece, and a serialized drama. I’m always looking for smart scripts that perfectly balance drama, mortality, conscience, action and entertainment.

 

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