Critic, writer and filmmaker Mark Cousins continues his run of highly personal movie essays with this typically warm-hearted, eccentric doc about his birth city of Belfast. It’s history in the loosest sense: Cousins imagines Belfast as a woman (Helena Bereen). She walks around town giving voice to his words, talking about the Troubles and their legacy, and reaching further back in time to the launch of the Titanic and the founding of the modern city in the seventeenth century.
But for all the talk of the past, most of the footage is contemporary and Cousins lingers on the modern and the mundane too, musing quietly on the colour of the sky or a man lying in a street doorway. He’s open to distractions – sitting down with a cheerily foul-mouthed pair of older women (for him these tough, spirited ladies are the soul of the city). Inevitably, ‘I Am Belfast’ tells a story of violence and division. Yet Cousins is an optimist and he includes two hopeful, staged moments: a bus driver turning round to pick up a woman’s forgotten shopping and the funeral of ‘the last bigot’. This is a boldly messy and impressionistic film.