24 CinÉireann / Issue 9
Out now in Irish cinemas is Lance Daly's famine-based western Black '47. The film has seen the widest release ever for an Irish film in Irish cinemas, playing more than 100 screens north and south of the border.
Black '47 is set during the Great Irish Famine and stars Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix), Jim Broadbent (Oscar® winner for Iris) and the prolific Irish screen and stage actor Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, Michael Collins). Joining them are rising international actors James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom, The Drop) and Freddie Fox (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) along with a strong young Irish cast including Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Moe Dunford (Michael Inside, Patrick’s Day) and Sarah Greene (Noble, Penny Dreadful).
It’s 1847 and Ireland is in the grip of the Great Famine that has ravaged the country for two long years. Feeney, a hardened Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, abandons his post to return home and reunite with his family. He’s seen more than his share of horrors, but nothing prepares him for the famine’s hopeless destruction of his homeland that has brutalised his people and where there seems to be no law and order. He discovers his mother starved to death and his brother hanged by the brutal hand of the English. With little else to live for, he sets a destructive path to avenge his family.
CinÉireann caught up with Australian actor James Frecheville, who plays Feeney in the film.
CinÉ: How much of the Irish that you learned for the role do you still have?
James Frecheville: I've lost it all unfortunately. I'm not going to pretend that I've still got it. It's something that I am very interested in learning. I was studying Ogham a bit at the time. I was trying to get all the way back to the entomology, trying to figure out where it all got back to once upon a time. I had a really fantastic teacher, Peadar Cox, while we were shooting the film. It would be a great language to pick up again, knowing that I've got a good teacher. Depending on how this is received then maybe there'll be room to do more Irish language films.
Your accent speaking Irish never comes across as forced.
That was part of the challenge and also the responsibility. The film is very important given the historical context. For a story that's never been told before. And as a non-Irishman, though I have Irish stock from however many generations back, there's a big responsibility to make sure that it's singing true. Because Feeney is the gratification element of the film. Because he gets to exact the rage, even though it's deeply tragic and he's just a sad, sad human being at this point. The idea that he's been off fighting for somebody else's cause, maybe to send some money back, for 13 years since he was a boy, and the heinous things that he would have done, and then to desert. It was to hell or to
James Frenchville on Black '47
Words: Niall Murphy