Hot Water Brigade




CONTROVERSIAL HIP-HOP act Kneecap have attracted plenty of media coverage as a result of the antics of its three members, which have included some pretty provocative murals – the sort that attracts condemnation from the likes of the Daily Mail. Nevertheless, the boys’ eponymous biopic is the first ever Irish-language feature to play the Sundance film festival and has been snapped up by Sony, having attracted a chunk of support from the Irish taxpayer.

The west Belfast trio who make up Kneecap are Naoise Ó Cairealláin, Liam Óg Hannaidh and JJ Ó Dochartaigh, who go by the names of Móglaí Bap, Mo Chara and DJ Provaí respectively. Anyone wondering what to expect from the their film can visit Kneecap’s X account for a trailer teaser “in the language of the oppressor” or go to their website, where there’s plenty of “merch” being hawked by the canny crew.

This includes badges based on their ‘RUC Not Welcome’ and ‘England Get Out of Ireland’ murals that attracted a fair degree of media and political comment, much of it negative (“fostering hatred” etc), proving that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Indeed, last summer the band released a statement saying that some people in Belfast may be “confused” about their artwork: “We don’t want to get anyone out of Ireland apart from the British Government.”

In the past, Kneecap have been banned by RTÉ’s Radio na Gaeltachta on the grounds that their single, ‘Cearta’, which features multiple references to drugs, sex and the PSNI, was not suitable for listeners. Móglaí Bap described the song as “satirical”.

It may raise the odd eyebrow then that the new bilingual film about the trio’s origins – produced by Trevor Birney, directed by Rich Peppiatt and starring Michael Fassbender – has attracted funding from the likes of TG4, Screen Ireland (SI), NI Screen, UK National Lottery and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI, now Coimisiún na Meán).

Across the Irish Sea, the Daily Mail was quick out of the gate to ask: “Why did the National Lottery pay £1.6m of public money for a film about Irish rap band accused of glorifying the IRA… and why does the BBC give them fawning national coverage where they were hailed as being at the ‘forefront of Irish hip hop’?”

Getting behind the film early looks like a canny move for Patrick O’Neill and Macdara Kelleher’s local distribution outfit, Wildcard, which retains Irish and UK distribution rights while being able to capitalise on Sony’s international marketing campaign.

Wildcard raised a meagre €70,000 in co-production cash from state funding agency SI, money that may turn out to be its canniest loan since a few quid was put into John Carney’s Once back in 2007.

The pittance from SI compares unfavourably with the €350,000 Wildcard received for Kneecap from the then BAI’s Sound & Vision fund in August 2022.

Mark Wood - Pied Vaper

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