Sunday, 12 June at 2.30
The Cube, The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Belfast Book Festival (www.belfastbookfestival.com)
Born and raised in Kilkenny, Hubert Butler (1900-91) – once described as “Ireland’s Orwell” – is now widely considered one of the great essayists in English of the twentieth century. Proud of his Protestant heritage while still deeply committed to the Irish nation, he sought in his life and writing to ensure that Ireland would grow into an open and pluralistic society. His five volumes of essays (The Lilliput Press) are masterful literature in the tradition of Swift, Yeats and Shaw, elegant and humane readings of Irish and European history, and ultimately hopeful testimony to human progress.
In this unique and remarkable film by one of Ireland’s most innovative film-makers, Butler’s life and work are brought to the big screen for the first time. The film follows his writer’s journey from his Anglo-Irish childhood and study at Oxford; through his time in Stalinist Russia (where he worked as a teacher), Nazi Germany (where he helped expedite the escape of Jews), and interwar Yugoslavia; to his later life as a market- gardener, writer and public intellectual at Maidenhall, Co Kilkenny, where his family had lived for a century and a half.
Historian Roy Foster, poet Chris Agee and biographer Robert Tobin lead the film’s impressive line-up of literary contributors. Steve Wickham (of The Waterboys) provides an original score with a suitably Balkan flavour, while the film’s historical sweep is assisted by rich archive footage. For full details of the Belfast and Dublin screenings, see “News and Events” at http://chrisagee.net
The film will be followed by a post-show discussion with Chris Agee, BBC journalist Darragh Mac Intyre and director Johnny Gogan.