Directed by Lance Daly
Released on 28th September 2018
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Black 47 powerfully portrays the British colonialism and genocide of the Irish in the 1840s.
Set in 1847, the Great Famine has swept across the country. This came about when the British took over all the farmlands, evicted the occupants, and all the harvests were exported over to England, while the only crop the Irish were allowed to eat, was destroyed by a devastating potato blight.
To make matters even more dire for the local people they were forbidden to hunt and fish by the British. in all over one million Irish citizens died of starvation.
The principal character in Black 47 is Fenney (James Frecheville), an Irish deserter from the British army, clearly suffering from what is now called PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, after serving in Afghanistan. What were the British doing in Afghanistan at that time?
When he returns to Ireland to witness the appalling effects of the British savagery, he is stunned to learn that his mother has starved to death and his brother has been hanged.
Fenney wreaks revenge in a gung ho style – nothing stands in his way – whether it be the police, British army officers, corrupt rent collectors, judges and landowners, the latter personified by Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Lord Kilnichael, who has utter disdain for the Irish people.
The British even tried to force the Irish not to speak their own language. But Irish director Lance Daly, in a notable way, has parts of the film subtitled, while characters spoke Gaelic.
Hannah (Hugo Weaving), who was an army comrade of Fenney in Afghanistan, committed a crime in Ireland and is faced with being hanged. But to escape the noose he is given the task of pursuing him and to bring him back to the British authorities.
What forcibly struck me about Black 47 was how the political traits depicted are still potent in preset times, but globally on a much larger scale, notably oppression, migration (one million Irish people emigrated to America at the time of the Great Famine), hunger and most starkly genocide.