Blind Flight

Written and Directed by John Furse and Brain Keenan
Screening at FACT

Reviewed by Darren Guy

The true story of the two British hostages, Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, held together in captivity in Beirut for four and a half years.

Blind Flight, the first feature film by John Furse, an established documentarist, is co-written by himself and Brian Keenan, and based on Keenan's book, An Evil Cradling, and the book McCarthy co-wrote, called ‘Some Other Rainbow’.

From beginning to end the film is truly compelling. In the first five minutes, we see Keenan (played by Liverpool’s own Ian Hart, with an unfaltering Belfast accent) bungled into the boot of a car, whisked off, and thrown into a make-shift cell, complete with insects and heat.

Belfast born Keenan, not one to let his fear show, (he went to Beirut to escape the troubles in Belfast) makes certain early stands against his capturers, including a very moving one, when they attempt to manhandle from him the proud shirt that his father had presented to him.

The film captures perfectly the isolation and confusion of an innocent man being held against his will, in a country where he understands neither reason nor language. Before long a blindfolded Keenan is moved out of his cell, to another cell were McCarthy (Linus Roach) is held. There then develops a remarkable friendship between two people held in a number of stinking make-shift cells. We are taken through their frustrations, loneliness, history, fears and their lives as they help each other survive. What also develops is a strange connection with their captors.

What is unique about this film, apart from striking performances by Hart and Roach, is not only its commitment to presenting the truest account possible of Keenan’s and McCarthy’s experiences in Lebanon (Keenan and McCarthy worked as advisers throughout the making of the film) but also the avoidance of any set stereotypes of the hostage takers. They were presented sometimes caring and sensitive, sometimes brutal, but also very humane, as well as being victims, responding to the plans international capitalism has made for them. In Keenan’s and Mc McCarthy’s own account, they developed very fond relationships with their captors.

John Furse, who attended the premiere, told me it had taken him ten years to raise the money for the film, and yet still it was shot quicker and on a lower budget, than most mainstream films. But this again is its quality – stripped of any pretentiousness.

This film is excellent and very relevant to today’s uncertain world. You must see it, and I hope that you get what I did – a feeling of the strength of the human spirit, and an understanding that we have more in common with the people of the Middle- East than we have differences.

Coming soon, an interview with the director and writer John Furse.