Belfast film: Reaction as Sir Kenneth Branagh wins first Oscar after 33 years of trying

Praise has been heaped onto Sir Kenneth Branagh after he picked up his first Oscar last night following eight nominations going back to 1989.

By Graeme Cousins
Monday, 28th March 2022, 10:49 am

Sir Kenneth, who picked up the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his Belfast film based on his own childhood in the north of the city, said it was “an enormous honour”.

Among those to congratulate the director was Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, who said all those involved should be very proud.

Mr Lewis tweeted: “Many congratulations to Sir Kenneth Branagh and #Belfast for their #Oscars success! What tremendous recognition for Northern Ireland and the local film industry on the biggest stage. All those involved with @Belfastmovie should rightly be very proud.”

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(L to R) Writer/director Kenneth Branagh, actor Lewis McAskie, actor Jude Hill, actor Judi Dench, actor Jamie Dornan, and actor Caitríona Balfe on the set of BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit: Rob Youngson/Focus Features

Award-winning Northern Ireland author Adrian McKinty said, “Well done our Ken!!!” while playwright Annie McCartney commented, “I’m really glad Ken Branagh won.”

Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, Richard Williams said: “On behalf of Northern Ireland Screen, I want to congratulate Sir Kenneth Branagh on winning the Award for Best Original Screenplay.

“The global success of Belfast has provided the local film industry in Northern Ireland with a much needed boost after a tough two years. Having a film named after our capital city recognised at the Oscars gives our industry credibility you couldn’t get any other way.

“The people of Northern Ireland welcomed this film with open arms, we are so proud that Belfast has also been recognised at the most prestigious film awards in the world.”

Belfast City Council said: “Congratulations to Sir Kenneth Branagh on his Oscar win! Sir Kenneth received the Freedom of the City back in 2018 & it’s great to hear him spreading the word internationally about how great Belfast is!”

The biggest talking point from the Oscars was when Will Smith stormed the stage and slapped Chris Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, just minutes before Smith was named best actor at the ceremony.

Local film fans tried to focus on the positives, and Belfast’s win.

Amanda Bail said: “As a child of the 70’s also from Belfast now in England this movie truly resonates with me ... huge congratulations.”

Sara Blessington wrote: “It should’ve won more. Great film. I wish the Oscars could do a do over. It wasn’t about the movies but about the people.”

In accepting the award Sir Kenneth, who was first nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor and Best Director for in 1989 for Henry V, spoke about some of the people “lost along the way” including Jamie Dornan’s father Jim.

He said: “This is an enormous honour for my family and a great tribute to an amazing city and fantastic people.

“This story is the search for joy and hope in the face of violence and loss.

“We lost some people along the way: Johnny Sessions, Jim Dornan, Leah Newman. We miss them, we love them, we will never forget them.

“And we will never forget all of those lost in the heartbreaking, heartwarming, human story of that amazing city of Belfast on the fabulous island of Ireland.

“This means a lot.”

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