Denver Film Festival attendees received Vince Vaughn, his sister Valeri and her film, Art of Conflict: The Murals of Northern Ireland to a packed house Saturday. This documentary took a unique perspective on how the Protestant vs. Catholic battle for Northern Ireland bleed to the walls of Belfast and beyond.
For those not aware the street art movement has been stoking all levels of critique in fine art circles internationally. A few years ago, Oscar contender, Exit through the Gift Shop, carried the movement to the mainstream. Walls have historically been an outlet for society left with no other means to communicate and influence. Berlin was intersected by the East – West cold war, and when Checkpoint Charlie fell, so did sections of the painted wall.
In America, we have laws that prohibit a citizen’s right to expression as Graffiti. Shepard Fairy was arrested right around the corner from Vaughn’s screening location because of the artist’s tagging (aka “Bombing”) efforts of the 2008 Democratic Convention. His contemporary across the pound, Banksy, is historically hidden from media – although praised in pop culture as seen in his 2010 Simpsons episode. These are just a few examples where laws shape commerce in the arts. Fairy’s Obey line can be found at a Nordstroms near you only because his Andre the Giant image took shape in the political battles of the East Coast.
Vaughn’s efforts, though, show how life and community is impacted by the art that surrounds citizens. During the heyday of retaliation, each side had muralists paint vacant walls, some strategic and some less so. The works contained the symbols of conflict for both the UFF and the IRA. These are the same streets that legendary rockers Bono portrayed in music – Sunday Bloody Sunday comes to mind. The violence of the bombings, the perversion of civil liberties to hold down and otherwise suppress, and how post conflict rules are impacting the murals are presented carefully and thoughtfully.
This is a learning documentary vs. the comedy that Vince is normally casted or associated. Upon receiving his Starz Denver Film Festival John Casavettes Award, Vaughn brought a chuckle to the crowd”…uplifting…” Art of Conflict is a good film for the history of how symbols stoke society and the personal stories documented. When you can interview political luminaries like those jailed and the men that ultimately made the cease fire possible – Sinn Finn’s Geary Adams – the film and those behind it deserve your attention. How the painters, not the fighters, felt is where Art of Conflict is strong. Sharing a paint can, roller and a wall to recreate a masterpiece like Picasso’s Guernica with your art, political and religious adversary is a great visual note for reconciliation.