If you're looking for a biopic or a documentary about Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger strike on 1981 in the infamous Maze Prison, near Belfast, "Hunger" -- the cinematic feature debut by British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen is not that picture.
"Hunger" screens at UWM Union Theatre Friday-Sunday, Sept. 11-13 at 7 and 9 p.m Friday, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with an added 9 p.m. screening on Saturday.
Admission is $6, $5 for UWM faculty, staff, alumni members and students of other schools. UWM students pay $4.
The 96-minute film is not an easy one to watch. Divided into three clear parts, McQueen gets in tight on the physical violence and emotional brutality faced by Sands and his fellow prisoners in H-block.
Violence claimed the lives of many on both sides during the Troubles and the film starts with a black screen and the statistic that by 1981, 2,187 had died since 1969.
In the deliberately-paced, almost entirely wordless opening section, a prison guard awakes and begins his day. His morning routine includes tea, checking his street for assassins and looking under his car for bombs.
He hesitates -- and his wife watches cautiously from the window -- as he starts the car.
We also get our first glimpses of the filth and fury faced by the H-block prisoners.
In the second segment, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest (Liam Cunningham) sit face to face in a prison visitation room and talk for nearly 20 minutes about the Troubles and the hunger strike, its morality and its useful as a weapon.
Here, the tide of words stands in stark contrast to the mute terror of the previous section of the film.
Next, we watch as the hunger strike begins to break down and consume Sands.
As Dennis Lim notes in his review of the film in The New York Times, "With its you-are-there immediacy 'Hunger' makes no bones about ignoring the bigger political picture. Margaret Thatcher is purely a disembodied nemesis, heard but never seen as she repudiates the prisoners' demands. 'She had to come in as a vapor,' Mr. McQueen said. 'I didn't want to leave the H-block.'"
A more powerful film you likely will not see this year. Likewise, you also won't find a film that makes you want to avert you eyes as much as "Hunger" does.
Also coming in the next week or so at UWM Union Theatre are:
"Blue Gold," a film that explores the battles for fresh water around the world, which screens Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Making its Milwaukee premiere is "24 City," the latest film by Jia Zhang-ke, director of "Still Life," "The World" and "Unknown Pleasures."
It is the story of three generations of factory workers in post-revolutionary China and it shows at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19 and at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19 and 20.
Admission fees are the same as for "Hunger," which screens at UWM this weekend.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.