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Boogaloo and Graham: Why this modest little film is captivating audiences around the world

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Jamesy (Riley Hamilton) and Malachy (Aaron Lynch) with Belfast actors Martin McCann and Charlene McKenna in a scene from the Bafta-winning short film set in 1970s Belfast

Jamesy (Riley Hamilton) and Malachy (Aaron Lynch) with Belfast actors Martin McCann and Charlene McKenna in a scene from the Bafta-winning short film set in 1970s Belfast

Jamesy (Riley Hamilton) and Malachy (Aaron Lynch) with Belfast actors Martin McCann and Charlene McKenna in a scene from the Bafta-winning short film set in 1970s Belfast

When director Michael Lennox punched the air as Boogaloo and Graham was named Best Short Film at the Baftas on Sunday it was a shot in the arm for the whole Northern Ireland film industry. This is a film born, bred and buttered here. The cast, crew and locations are all as authentic as the film itself.

They say never work with children or animals, and certainly never set your film in the troubled Belfast of the 1970s.

However, Boogaloo and Graham does all three, breaks all the rules and tenderly tugs at the heartstrings too.

This delightful drama centres on two loveable boys Jamesy (Riley Hamilton) and Malachy (Aaron Lynch), who are over the moon when their soft-hearted dad (Martin McCann) presents them with two baby chicks to care for. Christened 'Boogaloo' and 'Graham', the chickens begin to rule the family roost until a surprise announcement means their fluffy necks may be on the block.

Shot in four days around the city of Belfast on a very modest budget, no-one expected this little film to run and run. But chicken little has become chicken big, wooing audiences from Beverly Hills to Berlin.

But why has this clucking great film captured the hearts of film-goers around the world? I think the universal uplift is hard to resist. While so many big Hollywood films are obsessed with dead-beat dads, Boogaloo and Graham is about a good father, who when it comes to the crunch, does the right thing for his boys. The sanctity of childhood innocence is beautifully preserved.

Great credit must go to Northern Ireland Screen, who have nurtured the talent that stood on that Bafta stage - producer Brian J. Falconer, writer Ronan Blaney and director Michael Lennox. I first met Michael ten years ago, when he was a precocious teenager, dreaming of maybe one day making a film. Since then, he has blossomed into a major international filmmaker, first cutting his teeth at the National Film and Television School and then directing a series of startling short films.

Of course, it's great to have global TV shows being made in Northern Ireland, but nothing beats local talent winning awards on the world stage.

Can this film win the Oscar? You bet, American audiences love a sentimental Irish story.

 

Brian Henry Martin is a film critic

Belfast Telegraph