Kneecap 2024

Directed by Rich Peppiatt Rhythms

Belfast’s own Beastie Boys become unlikely figureheads of the Irish Language Act in this madcap biopic of sex, drugs, and Gaelic rap.

Aug 15

Hollywood Avondale

Aug 16

The Civic

Ireland In English and Irish with English subtitles
105 minutes Colour / DCP
R16
violence, offensive language, drug use & sex scenes

Director

Producers

Trevor Birney, Jack Tarling, Patrick O’Neill

Cinematography

Ryan Kernaghan

Editors

Chris Gill, Julian Ulrichs

Production Designer

Nicola Moroney

Costume Designer

Zjena Glamocanin

Music

Michael “Mikey” J Asante

Cast

Liam Óg Ó Hannaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, JJ Ó Dochartaigh, Michael Fassbender, Josie Walker, Simone Kirby

Festivals

Sundance
,
SXSW
,
Tribeca 2024

Elsewhere

Presented in association with

Hauraki

Never has a film had so much fun with Irish indigeneity. Rich Peppiatt’s sophomore feature forgoes the bleak Belfast of car-bombings and sectarian conflict in its following of the rise of Irish-language hip-hop group Kneecap. Members Naoise and Liam (both playing themselves) capitalise on the “intergenerational trauma” of The Troubles as an easy ticket to score prescription drugs. That isn’t to say those dark days have been forgotten; rather that these lads from West Belfast won’t let that history define them. 

After a close call with the garda, Liam is introduced to schoolteacher JJ (also playing himself) who discovers lyrics in Gaeilge in Liam’s notebook. Alongside Naoise, they form the group Kneecap and become a sensation on both sides of the border. Despite their affinity for courting controversy with songs ranging from the rebellious ("C.E.A.R.T.A", which is the Irish word for rights) to the ridiculous ("Your Sniffer Dogs Are Shite"), the band fast become a political symbol for the Irish Language Act.  

The first Irish-language film to ever play at Sundance, the film, like the eponymous band, is unapologetically proud to be Irish. With parallels to African American culture in the 1980s and ’90s, the trio use hip-hop as a means of expression, using storytelling as a form of resistance against corrupt authority figures, not least the duplicitously named Radical Republicans Against Drugs.  

How much of the film is actually true is up for debate, though one suspects the storyline revolving around Naoise’s father (Michael Fassbender) may be a fabrication. But when you’re having this much fun, who cares? Soundtracked with barn-storming breakbeats and laced with enough horse tranquiliser to put Pegasus on the No Fly List, Kneecap is a rip-roaring two-finger salute to the establishment and a resounding statement that the Irish language is here to stay. — Matt Bloomfield