Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

IRA Hunger film funding criticism

Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands and Liam Cunningham as Father Dominic Moran
The film has won the Camera dOr at the Cannes Film Festival

A Conservative MP has criticised 120,000 of public money from Wales helping to fund a film about the hunger strike of IRA prisoners in 1981.

Hunger, which won a top award at the Cannes film festival, is out on Friday.

Those behind the Wales Creative IP Fund said the subject matter was taken into account. The funding was spent on bringing post-production work to Wales.

But Monmouth MP David Davies said those affected by IRA terrorism would be "horrified".

The fund said they take into account the subject matter when deciding if a film should be given finance, but there were other important factors to the investment.

But Mr Davies, a former assembly member, said: "Anyone who has served in the armed forces or has been caught up in the IRA's terror campaign will be horrified that the Welsh Assembly Government is using taxpayers' money, at a time we're facing a huge recession, to support a film which is sympathetic to the IRA".

Three years ago, the assembly government set up a 7m fund to help attract business from film, TV and animation to Welsh companies.

'Shop window'

The producers of Hunger were given 120,000 by the fund, but they had to spend all that money in Wales and company Dragon DI, of Pencoed near Bridgend, worked on the colouring and look of the film.

The fund expects to make money from its investments in films like Hunger which can be reinvested in other projects. They say it is about supporting Welsh creativity and helping business.

Tony Rae of Dragon DI on his company's post-production film work

It has also recently funded The Edge of Love, the Dylan Thomas biopic starring Matthew Rhys, Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley, to the tune of 700,000.

Steve McQueen's film Hunger tells the story of the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands in the Maze prison.

Sands began his hunger strike in March 1981 as part of a long-running dispute over the end of special category status for republican prisoners.

He was elected an MP a month into his protest.

He died aged 27 on the 66th day of his fast, the first of 10 deaths of Maze prisoners.

The producers say it is "an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands".

Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands
Michael Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands

They say the film, shot in Northern Ireland, "provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit".

Tony Rae, managing director of Dragon DI, said the fund had been "crucial" for the business in opening up work to Wales.

"It's a fund which entices filmmakers into Wales, and Hunger was a case in point, and on top of that it acts as a shop window for us," he said.

"It's changing the way that historically films are being made, the centre has always been in London and we're trying to change that. It's been a direct benefit to our business, without a doubt."

The fund is managed for the assembly government by Finance Wales.

Bethan Bannister, investment executive for the fund, said they looked at each project's financial and creative aspects and hoped to have a return on each investment to reinvest any profit in new productions coming into Wales.

"We look for a project which does well on the international stage which is exactly what Hunger is doing - it's won awards at international film festivals, including Cannes, Sydney and Toronto, so we're very proud to be associated with films like that."

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