I am Belfast, documentary film review: ‘Too much idle flim flam’

A still from I Am Belfast

A still from I Am Belfast - Credit: Archant

A new film by a former presenter of Moviedrome, the Sunday night ‘80s/’90s BBC2 cult movie strand, is not an exciting prospect.

Original presenter Alex Cox burned through all his talent in his first two films (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy) and has been scraping along ever since.

His successor was Mark Cousins, the ‘Whispering Death’, a man who can suck the joy from anything he touches, but does so inadvertently and with great love. Here, he gives us a tour around his home town.

Our guide is an elderly woman in a shawl (Bereen) who is Belfast itself, 10,000 years old. She sometimes appears before us but for the most part, she and Cousins chunter away off-screen, ethereal presences commenting on the scenes of everyday life that they observe.

Their commentary is mostly whimsical.

It is the kind of film which is often described as “playful” – a critical term for something that is light-hearted but not the least bit funny.

Depressingly, and shamefully, interest perks up when half hour in, we come to The Troubles. Because now there is substance, some palpable content.

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But after about 10 minutes, the film is back to idle flim flam.

It is meant to be a display of resilience and hopefulness, but Cousins doesn’t have the wings to fulfill that desire and the result is an even more spurious take on Of Time And The City.

The problem with Cousins as a film maker is the same one that he had as a presenter.

Though he is utterly sincere in his love of film and desire to communicate that to as wide an audience as possible, there’s a preciousness to his work that excludes and deters involvement.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

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