Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Film genius Paul Greengrass tells of a 30-year love affair with Derry

Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass at a screening of his latest film in the Brunswick Movie Bowl in Londonderry as part of the Foyle Film Festival
Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass at a screening of his latest film in the Brunswick Movie Bowl in Londonderry as part of the Foyle Film Festival

He first came to Londonderry more than three decades ago, and today is enjoying the limelight as showbiz critics rave over his latest film, Captain Phillips.

But Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass was happy to be back in the city he believes has changed immeasurably.

The then-journalist first came to Northern Ireland during the 1980 Hunger Strikes to make a World in Action documentary.

Greengrass clandestinely corresponded with republican Raymond McCartney. He was intrigued at how two people from similar backgrounds could follow different paths.

Filming McCartney in Long Kesh led to footage that has become iconic and synonymous with the times. Meeting McCartney now an MLA yesterday in Derry, Greengrass reflected on how Derry has become a vibrant, youthful and creative city.

The day culminated in a question and answer session about his career, early influences and the magic that goes into making the films themselves.

University of Ulster lecturer Martin McLoone questioned Greengrass David Frost-style.

With a childhood dream to make drama it was only in his 30s that Greengrass felt he had developed his unique style, first in his hit film The Murder of Stephen Laurence.

Meeting civil rights activist Ivan Cooper sparked the 2002 Bloody Sunday film. Calling it an open love letter to the civil rights movement, he related the fine balance he had to strike when making the film, as each actor had their own experience and view of the events.

He paid tribute to the families and Prime Minister Cameron's apology for the events. He paraphrased Derry journalist Eamonn McCann's view that while Bloody Sunday marked the moment peace was impossible, Omagh marked the moment the peace process was possible.

Touching upon his other masterpieces including two of the Bourne Identity sequels, United 93 and the critically acclaimed Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks, the lively audience were keen to question one of Hollywood's finest, yet entirely unaffected directors.

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