ARTOPIA #Belfast | SHORT DOCUMENTARY FILM 2020
Producer, director, cinematographer and editor: Shachaf Dekel
Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement that ended hostilities in Northern Ireland, an Israeli filmmaker meets with leading activist creatives in Belfast to learn about the struggles of a society still grappling with its bloody history, and about the importance of art in fostering peace and social cohesion.
The film begins with my attempt to understand the Northern Ireland conflict, a.k.a. “The Troubles”. This inquiry takes us into the characters’ childhood stories from a city divided by peace walls and surrounded by military checkpoints.
Throughout the film, the wall appears as a reminder of the fragile 20-year peace, and of the differences that still divide the community. While the war itself is over, the historical battle lines are still drawn between Catholics (Irish republicans) and Protestants (British loyalists). Integrated education is mentioned as a possible way of resolving the division for the next generations.
As their personal stories unfold, the characters share their activist art initiatives, all driven by a commitment to a pluralistic and tolerant society in Belfast. These include art and graffiti festivals; carnivals in conflict neighborhoods; a contemporary dance piece that dramatizes post-conflict issues; feminist illustrations protesting the violation of women’s reproductive rights and LGBT struggles for equality; the Belfast Design Week initiative to create a thriving local design community with job opportunities; and a series of portraits of people who’ve suffered loss on both sides of the conflict, meant to create a platform for reconciliation.
As we discover the characters’ passionate drive to help their fellow citizens, we come to see how genuinely transformative art can be, in affording us opportunities to engage with critical issues through extraordinary experiences.
The film concludes with a look to Northern Ireland’s future, now clouded with the uncertainty of Brexit: the fear that closing the border between North and South might incite new violence, against the hope that people will abide by peace, however fragile.
Designer and animation: YARON SHIN | Music: HANA + HASIBA, MIKLATIM | Sound design: RONEN NAGEL | Grading edit Mistika: YOAV RAZ |
Post production: Edit Studios | Drone filming: CineCopters
ADAM TURKINGTON, COLIN DAVIDSON, DAVID BOYD, FIONA MCDONNELL, KARISHMA KUSURKAR, OONA DOHERTY