U.K. backers moving fast for 'Hunger'

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CANNES -- Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen's debut feature, "Hunger," which centers on IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, has attracted backing from Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The movie, being presold here worldwide by Becker International, is being co-financed by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and FilmFour.

It is co-written by McQueen with award-winning screenwriter and playwright Enda Walsh and stars Michael Fassbender (Francois Ozon's "Angel").

The film is produced by Laura Hastings-Smith ("The Lives of the Saints") and Robin Gutch ("Death of a President") at Blast! Films. It is set to shoot in September in Northern Ireland and scheduled to be broadcast on Channel 4 next year, backers said.

"Hunger" is billed "as a highly evocative and impressionistic interpretation of the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands, leader of the 1981 IRA hunger strike at the notorious Maze prison."

McQueen plans to bring his visual arts experience to the project. "The body as site of political warfare is becoming a more familiar phenomenon," he said. "It is the final act of desperation; your own body is your last resource for protest. One uses what one has, rightly or wrongly.

"What I want to convey is something you can't find in books or archive: the ordinariness and extraordinariness of life in this prison. Yet also the film is an abstraction in a certain way, a meditation on what it is like to die for a cause."

Jan Younghusband, Channel 4 commissioning editor for arts, described McQueen as "an exceptional artist and filmmaker whose work in galleries has transformed our experience of the visual arts."

Becker International is a division of Becker Group Ltd., a publicly listed Australian entertainment company.
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