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Hunger + ScreenTalk with screenwriter Enda Walsh & Lola Boorman, hosted by Clive Nwonka

The Devil Finds Work: James Baldwin on Film

An emaciated man sits in a jail cafe smoking a cigarette.

Steve McQueen's Hunger explores the themes of freedoms (both personal and national) and bodily suffering, which Baldwin investigates as a means of approaching cinema more broadly. 

Steve McQueen’s debut feature film, Hunger, remains an underappreciated examination of the 1981 Hunger Strike by the IRA prisoner Bobby Sands and his experiences of political oppression within the HYM Maze Prison. 

More broadly, the film is laden with universal questions of identity, belonging and morality. This screening, inspired by Baldwin’s analysis of the 1958 prison drama The Defiant Ones, asks what is experienced by the audience when confronted with images of human suffering, the political body, and what is seen in McQueen’s cinematic language that relates to Baldwin’s own concern with the relationship between cinema, identity and politics.

2008 UK/Ireland dir. Steve McQueen 96 min

This project is part of the ‘James Baldwin and Britain’ project (2024-2027), led by Douglas Field, Kennetta Hammond Perry and Rob Waters, with thanks for the generous support by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

The film programme is curated by Dr Clive Chijioke Nwonka.


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