Magazine article Screen International

Yann Demange, '71

Magazine article Screen International

Yann Demange, '71

Article excerpt

Director Yann Demange talks to Andreas Wiseman about his debut feature '71, which plays in Competition at Berlin.

Yann Demange is in demand. From agents, producers, financiers, festivals and now journalists. And after seeing his debut feature '71, which plays in Berlin's Competition, it's easy to see why.

After successful stints directing UK television series Top Boy and Criminal Justice, the Paris-born London-based director is now on course to make waves with his confident and novel addition to the canon of films about The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

But when he meets Screen in London ahead of the festival, the 37-year-old director is still "unclenching" after delivering his film just days before. "I only saw the film in its entirety last week," he says. "It's surreal."

Connecting with the character

In '71, rising star Jack O'Connell (Starred Up) plays a young and disoriented British soldier who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the dangerous streets of Belfast in 1971.

The film's impressive supporting cast includes Sean Harris, Paul Anderson, David Wilmot, Charlie Murphy and Sam Reid.

The piece is shot through with striking visuals and genuine tension; that tension instantly caught Demange's attention on page.

"I had been looking for a film for a long time," he says about his path to the script. "Tessa Ross at Film4 sat me down after Criminal Justice and said, 'Make it with us.' I felt privileged. Lizzie Francke and Chris Collins from the BFI were the same. And Dan MacRae at StudioCanal had been sending me material for years. I'd read a lot but nothing clicked. I had to be really moved by my first film.

"But when I read '71 I immediately connected to the lead character, Gary Hook, and how the boys on all sides were humanised," he adds.

Film4, BFI and StudioCanal, along with producers Angus Lamont at Crab Apple and Robin Gutch at Warp, would become cornerstones in getting '71 made. Screen Yorkshire, Creative Scotland and Northern Ireland Screen also provided funding and Protagonist boarded sales.

Careful chasing

From the get-go, however, the film required a careful balancing act: it was a feat that Demange relished.

"One of the things that most grabbed me was the chase element to this film. …

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