Directed by John Furse, starring Ian Hart and Linus Roache.
In 1985 Brian Keenan went to teach English in the Lebanon, in part to get away from sectarianism in Belfast. It was the wrong place at the wrong time - he was subsequently kidnapped in Beirut by a group of fundamentalist Shia militiamen and held hostage for almost five years, several of those with British journalist John McCarthy. Based on the story of their captivity, 'Blind Flight' was written by director John Furse together with Keenan and McCarthy, giving this harrowing, but uplifting, film an unmistakable authority.
Leaving his Beirut house en route to work one day, Brian Keenan (Hart) is grabbed by a gang of men and bundled into the boot of a car. His captors believe that he is British and are confused when he insists that he is Irish - but don't release him, keeping him isolated in a small cell and ignoring his hunger strike attempt. Months pass and Keenan has few distractions other than catching flies, remembering events from his past and trying to block out the moans of other prisoners being beaten.
After months of living in his own head, he is abruptly moved and ends up sharing a new prison with John McCarthy (Roache), a TV journalist who got kidnapped while covering Keenan's story. Initial clashes between the working class Belfast Protestant and former public school boy are soon subsumed into an unlikely friendship which sustains them both through years of privations and casual cruelty.
John Furse's decision to focus exclusively on the duo is a brave but inspired one. Although Keenan and McCarthy had encounters with other hostages, these are not included here. Political context is never explored nor is there any mention of the families and friends who continued to actively campaign for their freedom at home. For the most part, the camera is the only other presence in their hermetic surroundings.
Extraordinary performances from both Ian Hart and Linus Roache prove that Furse's confidence was not misplaced with both actors deftly and sympathetically portraying these warts-and-all people. There is no heroism, no vilification - not even towards their unpredictable, often kind but sometimes sadistic, captors - but there is a remarkable amount of humour, something that both men credit for helping them survive.
It may be more than 13 years since Brian Keenan and John McCarthy emerged, blinking and blinded into the light of day and the glare of media attention but their story, and its testimony to the resilience of the human spirit, still has an undimmed resonance.