The 15th annual Belfast Film Festival came to a close with a showing of The Survivalist, in front of a packed crowd at Dublin Road’s Movie House.

Director Stephen Fingleton and the film’s star Martin McCann were in both attendance and gave speeches before the screening. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, this was the film’s European debut.

Kelan Headley was there to review it…

Shot in Ballymoney and Bishopscourt, The Survivalist is set in a post apocalyptic Northern Ireland.

Owing to an over production of oil (though not clearly defined how) the worlds population has depleted and food has become scarce. People have fallen back on their primal instincts, resorting to scavenging and murder to survive.

McCann plays the title character; a lone wolf living in a cabin on a small allotment. Isolated for years he ruthlessly defends his food with an armament of weaponry.

A woman and her daughter stumble upon the cabin and plead with him for supplies. The only exchange they are able to negotiate is a sexual one; the younger woman sleeps with the survivalist for food and a place to stay. This becomes a recurring arrangement; the women live at the cabin and contribute to the maintenance of the crops, whilst the elder woman masterminds an opportunity to take it over.

The Survivalist was a raw, savage portrayal of survival and dealt with man’s urges in frank, explicit detail. The imagery is graphic; at one point McCann actually masturbates on camera. Nudity is employed throughout, occasionally feeling gratuitous. However it was a larger approach Fingleton utilises to create a stark realism. There is next to no musical score and the cinematography was all via natural lighting.

The Survivalist was an intense, gripping thriller which concluded the 2015 Belfast Film Festival on a high note.


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