February 25, 2022 | LIFE| By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Sierra Romero

As the date of the Academy Awards, Sunday, March 27 grows closers, it becomes more and more relevant to talk about nominees, including “Belfast.”

Running against other films for best picture, actors and supporting actresses, sound, screenplay, and director, “Belfast” is a film to be talking about. However, playing at $20 a screening online, it’s certainly an expensive endeavor.

“Belfast” feels almost like “Florida Project” or “Captain Fantastic” in the way that it approaches childhood and fantasy.

In the opening scene, Buddy, the very lovable child protagonist, pretend fights with another kid, wielding a trash can lid as a shield. When we are introduced to the riots and unstable reality of life in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the 1960s, we see Buddy’s mom utilizing the trash can lid as a makeshift shield for her child. Immediately, this establishes the tension between childhood and adulthood.

Religion, ethnicity and colonization are at the core of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The region was part of the British empire, and governed by Protestant descendants of British settlers who discriminated against native Irish Catholics in cities like Belfast. Religion was a shorthand for the politics of empire, with most Protestants seen as pro-British “unionists” in conflict with the pro-independence Catholic “nationalists.”

In the running for an academy award, the score of the film is especially notable. The majority of the music is by Van Morrison, who grew up just three miles outside of Belfast.

The theme of fantasy versus reality, intimately connected to the joy of childhood contrasted with the emotional weight of adulthood, hits deeply in “Belfast.” The film portrays Buddy’s past in  black and white and present-day Belfast in color, reinforcing the sense of childhood. 

At the core of “Belfast” is an appreciation for community and an emphasis on understanding. Even in the initial scenes, we see Moira, Buddy’s cousin, and Buddy debating what names mean that someone is Catholic or Protestant. They are merely kids, attempting to understand an ancient conflict beyond their comprehension.

At the end of the movie, Buddy and his dad speak about a girl in his class he likes. He says, “that wee girl can be a practicing Hindu, or a Southern Baptist, or a Vegetarian Anti-Christ. But if she’s kind and she’s fair, and you two respect each other, she an’ her people are welcome in our house any day of the week. Agreed?” Agreed.

“Belfast” is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, YouTube, Redbox or Vudu, or in theaters. 

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