Escaping our walls with grappling hooks and VR
by Raquel GOMEZ for Shared Future News
24 May 2018
Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement, there are still nearly 100 ‘peace walls’ dividing communities in Belfast. For tourists, peace walls are just another architectural attraction of the city. For many people, peace walls are normalising segregation.
As part of its Carnegie Oldpark project, the Northern Ireland Foundation screened two films: Grappling Hook (from artist Raymond Watson) and Will the Walls Come Down? (by local filmmaker Brendan McCourt at New Red, in partnership with Belfast Interface Project).
Grappling Hook is a short film that shows the psychological division caused by the walls physically, in a way filled with symbolism and metaphoric meaning. The main elements of the film are a grappling hook — the type made illegally in the prisons of Maze/Long Kesh during the 1970s — attached to a rope and thrown up a peace wall as an intent to escape from one reality to another.
Watson explained that the film reflects the idea of running away. Every side of the wall represents a reality set on ideological and political beliefs, which imprison human beings and create prejudices.
Will the Walls Come Down? is virtual reality (VR) documentary, which tells the story of life at Belfast peace walls through the eyes of young people. Through storytelling and VR, viewers can immerse themselves in the perspective of people who have grown with walls already built.
The documentary opens with an aerial view of Cuper Way peace wall, built in 1969, and the explanation of a British Army General telling the earliest stages of the walls, as a “very, very temporary”measure.
Donna (a 24-year-old Protestant mother) and Anthony (a 21-year-old Catholic youth worker) guide the viewer to different walls while they tell their personal perspectives and stories.
“Live and let live. Hopefully, I’ll have more children and I’d like them to have a future with no violence, no fears, and more opportunities. To me, people are people. Everybody is the same. Everybody came up to the world in the same way, what’s the difference?” said Donna.
“This documentary, showcased through VR, is one that is a virtual experience for the viewer unless you live within these communities. For those people, the story it tells is a reality,” explained McCourt.
Some peace walls have came down in the past few years, but many remain. As part of a shared future policy, there is an official pledge to remove all peace walls in Northern Ireland, by 2023.
Walls are physical barriers and can be a representation of physiological barriers. Of communities and people. Of separate lives. Of shared fear. Will you come down the walls?
The film is funded through the Community Relations Council’s annual media grant scheme. To view the film, visit youtube.com — smartphone and VR headset or cardboard are required to experience the full VR functionality of the film.
Photo source: @ArtisAnnBelfast