Brian Henry Martin at the movies

From Belfast To Africa

Published Thursday, 01 May 2014
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Any movie that begins with three boys pushing a goat down the street in a shopping trolley has to be worth watching - and it is.

This is just one of the many memorable scenes from The Good Man, the terrific debut feature film from Northern Irish writer/director Phil Harrison which plays at the QFT this week.

Ultimately things don't work out too well for the goat, but then that's true of most of the characters in this complex compelling drama. Set on two continents with parallel narratives in two languages, The Good Man may be classed as low budget but it's big on ambition.

Aidan Gillen plays Michael, a hot shot financier working in Belfast. He has a wife and daughter he loves, good friends and a promising career. But everything starts to unravel when, through a simple act of thoughtlessness, he causes a stranger's death in an accident.

Six thousand miles away, Thabang Sidloyi plays Sifiso, a sparky teenager living in one of the vast townships in Cape Town. Hoping for a place at university, and a better future, he is inadvertently drawn deeper into the harsh struggles of township life, and begins to ask why the new South Africa looks so much like the old. These two men, seemingly world's apart, must face up to the same dilemma, how do be a good man?

There is a great freshness to a film that weaves its characters into a cultural collision from afar. Northern Ireland and South Africa blend beautifully together and the intriguing dual drama unfolds with an unexpected twist between the two locations. Fifteen years ago, travelling from Belfast, I spent two months working in Nyanga township in Cape Town, experiencing first-hand, the heart and soul, the colour and the chaos of this film. I was struck then, that despite the obvious differences, there were so many similarities in the spirit of both places. Amazing now, to see that captured on the big screen.

Easy on the eye and heavy on the heart, Aidan Gillen has matured into a wonderful screen actor. As his character Michael finds the guilt almost too much to bear, Gillen marvellously descends into a darker tone. There is a hint of danger in every tortured expression as he desperately searches for redemption. A star is also born in little Lois Turkington who is delightful as Michael's quirky daughter. She made me laugh out loud in one curious scene where she whips her doll with a bamboo cane in the back garden.

However, most revealing about The Good Man is the collective of investors in the end credits. Ordinary people who believed in this project to put their hands in their pockets to help make it happen. Now it's up to us to do the same, and support a rising film talent Phil Harrison, by going to see his formidable first film.

The Good Man (Cert 15) opens at The Queen's Film Theatre on Friday 2nd May.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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