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Kenneth Branagh to feature in new BBC NI documentary as part of arts series

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Kenneth Branagh will be the subject of a new BBC NI arts documentary. Photo: Gareth Cattermole

Kenneth Branagh will be the subject of a new BBC NI arts documentary. Photo: Gareth Cattermole

Normal People star Aoife Hinds will present a documentary for BBC NI on the Brontë Sisters, their Northern Irish roots and their legacy.

Normal People star Aoife Hinds will present a documentary for BBC NI on the Brontë Sisters, their Northern Irish roots and their legacy.

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Kenneth Branagh will be the subject of a new BBC NI arts documentary. Photo: Gareth Cattermole

Kenneth Branagh and the Brontë Sisters are among the subjects of a new series of arts documentaries commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland.

Now in its second year, The Season of Arts aims to celebrate innovators from the worlds of international literature, theatre and film, music and arts, who all have strong Northern Irish connections.

The series will showcase the best of local talent, with interviews, surprising stories, a look at arts in rural places and some new music influenced by age old connections.

Among the new content to feature in the season will be a profile on Belfast-born actor and director Kenneth Branagh, coinciding with the release of his multi award-winning film, Belfast. The film, written and directed by Branagh, sees him return to his roots in the city of his early childhood. In an interview with Kathy Clugston, Branagh explores the value of family life in the face of the gathering storm that became the Troubles - one which led to him leaving the city.

The programme, Branagh: Bringing Belfast Home, sees Branagh talk at length about his new film - what drove him to write it, working with the actors and even his refusal to water down the Belfast accent for international distribution. He also discusses his own childhood experiences of being caught up in rioting as both bystander and participant, his parents’ zest for life and how leaving the city left a deep mark on him. This is combined with footage from the film Belfast.

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, are the best-known literary siblings in the world. Their novels, including Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, are considered masterpieces and often appear in polls of the greatest novels ever written. But while their story is steeped in West Yorkshire, that’s not where it began. Dig a little deeper and there is another chapter to their story, rooted in Northern Ireland, that is every bit as epic as anything penned by the sisters.

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Normal People star Aoife Hinds will present a documentary for BBC NI on the Brontë Sisters, their Northern Irish roots and their legacy.

Normal People star Aoife Hinds will present a documentary for BBC NI on the Brontë Sisters, their Northern Irish roots and their legacy.

Normal People star Aoife Hinds will present a documentary for BBC NI on the Brontë Sisters, their Northern Irish roots and their legacy.

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In The Brontës: An Irish Tale, presenter Aoife Hinds, star of Derry Girls, Normal People and The Last Call, will explore the surprising Irish connections that had a lasting impact on the Brontës, their work and their legacy in locations throughout Ireland and Yorkshire. Hinds’ own father, the actor Ciarán Hinds, currently starring in Branagh’s Belfast, played leading man Mr Rochester in an TV film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

The documentary is a Clean Slate Television production for BBC Northern Ireland.

Brian Friel stands among the giants of Irish literature and in a new film, those closest to him reflect on the legacy of this award-winning playwright.

Born in Omagh, Co Tyrone in 1939, Friel’s life spanned some of the most significant political, social and cultural shifts in recent history. From Philadelphia Here I Come to Faith Healer and Translations, his plays explore themes around identity, social change and language that took Irish theatre in a completely new direction.

Seven years after his death, this revealing film sees Anne Friel invite viewers into the home she shared with her late husband in Co Donegal, offering a glimpse into his writing room and study, where photos with Meryl Streep, the Kennedys and his Tony Award for the Broadway success, Dancing at Lughnasa, decorate the walls.

Brian Friel – Shy Man Showman was made by Walk on Air Films and is a co-production for RTÉ and BBC Northern Ireland. The film airs Tuesday, January 18, at 10.35pm on BBC One NI.

Other highlights of the series include Emma Spence: Home, Hope and Hedgerows, a personal and reflective documentary about the former Young Artist of the Year, Emma Spence. The Hillsborough woman’s work has been influenced by her family’s farming traditions and also by a tragedy that befell them a decade ago. The programme will consider her rural upbringing and the influence living and working on a farm that claimed the lives of her father and two brothers has had on her art.

There will also be programmes on BBC NI’s School Soloist of the Year and The Narrow Sea, The Farther Shore with Phil Cunningham, in which the Scottish musician and broadcaster returns to Northern Ireland on a coastal odyssey that will culminate in the creation of a new musical composition.

In addition to this content later in the spring, BBC NI will be screening The White Handkerchief. On the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a newly commissioned piece of musical theatre will premiere in Derry’s Playhouse Theatre, with simultaneous broadcasts around the world.

Eddie Doyle, head of content commissioning, BBC NI, said: “The support and promotion of the arts here has always been important to BBC NI.

“With this in mind, we are delighted to be able to offer viewers a new season of arts programmes and documentaries celebrating innovators from the worlds of international literature, theatre and film, musicians and artists, all from these shores.”


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