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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

I am Belfast [Blu-ray]


(Mark Cousins, 2015)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Canderblinks Film and Music

Video: BFI



Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:24:06.958

Disc Size: 41,603,635,659 bytes

Feature Size: 24,241,827,840 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.57 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 20th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2554 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2554 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



Interview with director Mark Cousins (13:58)
Interview with actress Helena Bereen (10:43)
Interview with cinematographer Christopher Doyle (10:23)

A Cinematic Walk with Mark Cousins (18:00)
Making-of documentary (13:42)

Trailer (1:33)

DVD included





Description: I Am Belfast sees celebrated filmmaker, writer and curator Mark Cousins (6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia, Here Be Dragons) cast his painterly eye on his home town, the port city Belfast.

Beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Rabbit-Proof Fence) and with a powerful soundtrack by the great Northern Irish DJ and composer David Holmes (Out of Sight,'71, Hunger), Cousins' film takes viewers on an emotional journey through the complex and sometimes tragic history of the Northern Irish capital, embodied as a 10,000 year-old woman, compellingly portrayed by Helena Bereen (
Hunger, Mo). Interspersing archive material (often detailing the horrors of the Troubles) and newly-filmed footage, I Am Belfast is an impassioned and politically engaged love letter to Cousins' hometown.



The Film:

Creative documentary done in a style unique to Mark Cousins – a visual, poetic depiction of Belfast and its citizens, told with love and passion of someone, who has left the city many years ago but is still fascinated by it. The film personifies Belfast and portrays it as an experienced gentle, older woman (played by Helena Bereen), who has seen, and accepted it all. She leads the viewers through the changing landscape of Belfast and spins a tale of its history, while addressing philosophical questions about the nature of man and about a city as an urban phenomenon. Themes brought up in the film range from the landscapes surrounding the city, its changing architecture and social structure to the political and personal repercussions of the Northern Irish conflict.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

"I am Belfast," says the woman on the beach. "I don't just mean that I'm from Belfast. I am Belfast."

The woman (Helena Bereen) is middle-aged, firm of feature, steely of gaze. What might at first look like kindness is more a form of studied patience. She's old, she tells us. She's been here for ten thousand years, since the time before. Perhaps she's also forgetful, because there's precious little of the city's older history, or of the myths that predate it, in Mark Cousins' documentary. This is very much a portrait of the modern city, and Modernist in its execution.

"We could be at the North Pole," we are told, watching dark blue waters lap against white shores, but this is no glacier before us, it's a mound of salt. Cousins delights in setting up illusions like this (with help from accomplished Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle), encouraging us to look beneath the surface, to look beyond the city's own portrayal of itself. Two men walk towards one another in a tunnel; in the background, there's bar. But this isn't somewhere one can pop in for a pint. It's just painted on the wall, in memory of a real bar blown up during the Troubles.

Excerpt from EyeForFilm located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

I am Belfast gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from BFI.  Presumably shot with the versatility of HD the image quality is crisp and filled with awe-inspiring cinematography from the great Christopher Doyle. It's one amazing shot after another and the 1080P resolution, in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, exports tight visuals with extensive depth and solid contrast.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail and there are really no flaws with the rendering. This Blu-ray probably looks like exactly as the production I am Belfast was intended. It seems devoid of imperfections of any kind.





















Audio :

For the audio - we are given the option of a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps (24-bit) or a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 2554 kbps (24-bit). There are a few surprisingly separations but most benefitting from the uncompressed options is the score by David Holmes (Out of Sight,'71, Hunger) which supports the film's impressive visuals and gentle tones throughout. Narration is always clean and clear. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

BFI include separate interviews with director Mark Cousins, actress Helena Bereen and cinematographer Christopher Doyle running over 1/2 an hour in total. There is also an enjoyable piece entitled A Cinematic Walk with Mark Cousins running 18-minutes plus a Making-of documentary as well as a trailer. A DVD is included.



Cousins has created a very special documentary with I am Belfast. In the extras he describes the city as a character of a great story and the film expresses that sentiment in the intimate portrait of Belfast.  The BFI Blu-ray provides an excellent a/v presentation and some rewarding interview supplements including the 'Cinematic Walk'. For those who are interested we can absolutely recommend - I am Belfast is a wonderful experience. 

Gary Tooze

June 5th, 2016


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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