There was an incredible buzz at the Movie House, Dublin Road last night. In a blur of brightly branded leathers, steely-nerved competitors and the turning of motorbike wheels and film reels the 14th Belfast Film Festival was off…
Road, the opening night premiere, is a documentary feature that pays homage to motorcycle road racing, and two generations of the Dunlop’s, a quiet local family who took the adrenaline fuelled sport by storm. The film, written, produced and directed by Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand Films, was screened to 900 people across three screens, simultaneously. Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand was delighted with the turnout “It’s great to see so much support for this local story” he said. In the audience was a mix of family, including brothers Michael and William Dunlop, family friends, film crew, bikers and fans of both road racing and film. William Dunlop, the son of Joey Dunlop who was awarded an MBE for his services to the sport, said of Road; “It’s an impacting hard story, but that’s what road racing is all about. There have been so many things done about them (the Dunlop’s) but this is the most powerful one.” He said after seeing the film that he felt very proud, and that although the film didn’t shy away from the dangerous side of the sport it also depicted the family tradition.
Local hero Liam Neeson, who narrated the film, but was unable to attend the premiere, sent a personal and heartfelt letter that was read out by Lavery. Neeson said he plays the hard man in films, but the Dunlop’s are the real deal. He spoke of how he was touched by working on documenting their story, and that he could relate to the tragedies that had touched them, “I have suffered similar loss” he wrote. He closed by encouraging the brothers, in true Ballymena style, to “keep her lit.”
Road is a film you will not want to miss, it opens in cinemas across Ireland and the UK this summer. Family and friends, bikers and sports personalities attended the after party in the Europa Hotel, where they rocked on till the wee small hours. The 14th Belfast Film Festival is off to a flying start.
BBC Sports commentator Stephen Watson
Michele Devlin, Festival Director introduces Road
Ben O'Loan, Brian Henry Martin & Jonathan Golden (Doubleband) with Susan Lovell (BBC NI) & Richard Williams (NI Screen).
William Dunlop and his partner
Linda Dunlop with her family at the premiere of Road
David Kilpatrick (Sound, Road) with Susan Lovell (BBC Head of Progs. NI)
Road fan - selfie
Directors Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt