From the IHT: Steve McQueen is a powerhouse artist, winner of the 1999 Turner Prize for his video installations. "Hunger," his first feature film, which opened Un Certain Regard here and is a strong contender for the Caméra d'Or, tells the story of the convicted IRA terrorist Bobby Sands, imprisoned in the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. In 1981, Sands faced off against Margaret Thatcher's government as leader of a hunger strike. He was the first of 10 prisoners to die.
The story was branded in McQueen's memory. "I was about 11 years old, and this guy called Bobby Sands appeared on the TV screen, with a prison number on him," he says. "It was a real coming-of-age thing, an image that stuck in my psyche.
"Bobby Sands didn't stay in my psyche, but that moment did. You tend to forget things: you grow up, you get pubic hair, you get taller and then you reconnect with certain things. So I've made a feature film about it."
His film portrays the intense combat among the inmates, who demanded to be recognized as political prisoners, and their jailers. The men refused to wear their jail uniforms, and so they went naked, with towels wrapped around their loins.
McQueen, now 38, is a large, robust man who talks in pungent phrases. The world of cinema has been woven into his video past: one famous title was "Deadpan" (1997), in which he re-staged Buster Keaton's stunt of the house collapsing all around him.
"Hunger" is a very physical film. It is about a hunger strike; it is also about what a man chooses to live for, what he chooses to die for. McQueen thinks that this question has resonance in today's world.