Northern Ireland news

Judi Dench pays tribute to her Irish roots as Oscar-tipped 'Belfast' opens to cinema-goers

Judi Dench with Ciaran Hinds and Jude Hill in a scene from Belfast

DAME Judi Dench has paid tribute to her Irish roots as the Oscar-tipped film Belfast opened to cinema-goers.

The movie, which went on general release on Friday, has been receiving rave reviews.

Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical love letter to his hometown reunites him with longtime friend and collaborator Dench.

It follows the tale of Buddy and his working-class parents, played by Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe, trying to make their way through the tumultuous late 1960s as the Troubles broke out.

The movie stars newcomer Jude Hill as Buddy alongside Caitríona Balfe as Ma, Jamie Dornan as Pa, Ciarán Hinds as Pop and Dench as Granny.

Branagh's family left their home in the Tiger's Bay area of north Belfast for Reading, Berkshire when he was nine-years-old in May 1970.

Dench's mother Eleanora was born in Dublin and her English-born father Reginald moved to Dublin at the age of three.

Her parents met while her father was studying medicine at Trinity College Dublin.

"I've always thought that Judi has a great deal more Irish in her than the public are aware of," said Branagh in an interview with RTÉ Entertainment.

"But actually, I think your Irishness (Dench's) and your character - your love of words and all of that - I think, is very much part of you."

"It is," Dench agreed.

"I've never lived in Ireland because my family came over to Lancashire and then to Yorkshire. My brother was born in Lancashire and I was born in Yorkshire.

"But I always remember - in fact, I never forget - my parents saying to me, this is after the war, they said to me, 'We're going to see a film, it's called Night Boat to Dublin'. And so, I got ready to go to the film.

"We weren't at all - we were going on the night boat to Dublin!

"And I will never forget that morning of all standing on the deck, watching us coming into Dún Laoghaire and my parents... the emotion was tremendous.

"I mean, it must have been extraordinary for them to come back and see a place that they were brought up in."

Both Branagh and Dench said the experience of making the film during lockdown had a profound effect on everyone involved.

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