IT'S not often an arty film has everyone talking. But Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen, took the film festivals of 2008 by storm. Despite being released in just a few cinemas, it's stark and shocking portrayal of the 1981 hunger strikes at Belfast's Maze prison propelled it into the public consciousness.
The Lawrence Batley Theatre held a one-night only screening of the acclaimed film, which was co-written by McQueen and Enda Walsh. It premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, won the prestigious Camera d'Or award and went on to win the Sydney Film Prize and received two BAFTA nominations, winning one. It also won two of four nominations at the 2009 IFTA awards.
You can see why. The film gives a real sense of the mood in Northern Ireland during the 'Troubles' and shows the stark reality of people on both sides of the violence.
It portrays those involved as people who often had no choice about their actions - for example, in one scene a prison guard weeps after taking part in brutal beatings on non-conformist prisoners, who refuse to wash or wear prison clothes and stage dirty protests in their cells.
Central character Bobby Sands - who led the hunger strikes - is also depicted as a man left with no choice but to take drastic action to further his cause for the IRA and to get 'political status' for prisoners like himself, who did not see themselves as criminals.
In an astonishing 17-minute dialogue - done in just one take - he debates with a priest played by Liam Cunningham, about the rights and wrongs of leading the strike, knowing that it could cost him and others their lives.
Ultimately, after 66 days, it claimed Sands' life and 10 others died too.
Personally I don't have an extensive knowledge of the Troubles. But the film gave you a clear indication of who was on which side and the strength of the beliefs they held - and the heartache that brought for them and their families.
Some have complained that the film is not representative enough of all groups involved in the Troubles. Maybe it's not - I went with an open mind and felt that it was not overly biased.
It was not a complete history of conflict in Northern Ireland - the Troubles were a backdrop for this story of one man and his choice to lead a last resort hunger strike action that cost him and others their lives.
Whichever side you sympathise with, the violence and waste of life portrayed in this film hit home and the experience of watching a man starve himself to death on screen was heart-rending.
It was made all the more poignant when you knew that Michael Fassbender - playing Sands - had controversially starved himself for weeks to play the part with conviction. While it may seem a foolhardy choice, you can't criticise him for trying to understand the motivation and emotions of the character he was trying to inhabit.
Fassbender's performance was stunning. Despite there being little dialogue, his whole demeanour managed to convey the sense of a strong man with convictions and the courage to carry them out - even in the scenes where he was weak, emaciated and close to death. He completely commanded your attention in every scene.
He may not be a household name yet but he is certainly a fine actor to watch out for.
All the performances were well carried out, to say that there was little dialogue in the film. It relied heavily on well-shot visuals, some of amazingly every day scenes such as a prison guard sweeping the floor, which somehow was made powerful.
I felt some of these scenes could have been shorter in my opinion, however, this is an art film not a box office hit so one has to expect it to be a little less crowd-pleasing.
Pleasing is not what this film is about. It is an exploration of a pivotal and difficult period in British history. With it happening just a year before I was born, I felt duty bound to watch this film and try to ask myself some difficult questions.
Hunger is not an easy watch. But it is fascinating, fantastically made, well acted and, if you want to exercise your brain and watch something thought-provoking, you can't do much better than this.