This documentary follows the leader of the 1981 Hunger Striker Bobby Sands and the 2 months before his death. While explaining the historical and cultural background of the man who gave his life in an attempt to make conditions better for IRA Prisoners in Northern Ireland and the UK.
Watching this film on Independence Day, July 4th 2016, with the UK in turmoil over the vote to leave the European Union, and added to that it being 100 years since the Easter Rising in Ireland, it’s hard to not get emotional. I was born and raised in Dublin, and live about 1000 yards away from the street where I grew up. My Godmother, Godfather, and their family had some form of ties to the Republican movement while I was growing up and we never talked about it. In relative peace Dublin existed outside the bubble of what the rest of the world called The Troubles. Every day you’d hear stories of bombings, murders, and the attempts of the paramilitaries on both sides trying to kill people because of these six counties in Ireland. You started to become numb to the news.
Bobby Sands was a member of the IRA from Newtownabbey. A young man who at 27 started one of the most publicised Hunger Strikes in the world. This documentary charts the 66 days to his death. There are interviews with historians, members of the British Government from the time, members of the IRA of the time, and the Republican movement who are still struggling for a United Ireland today. We hear from media commentators and Doctors who try to explain what the body would be going through during each week or month of the Hunger Strike. There is a massive amount of archive footage from both sides to build you a very dour picture of the lives that people of Northern Ireland on both sides lived during the time.
It’s hard not to get emotional while watching a film like this. As a Film Reviewer you are meant to look at the production values and the performances, then write some witty, or at least attempt to be witty, comments that make you the readers want to see the film or not. Please whatever else you watch this year, whatever men in tights, or huge explosions, this film will open your eyes to a conflict that while the media have moved on from is still relevant today. It would be easy for the film makers to come down on one side or the other in the debate of The Troubles, but they manage to walk the tightrope perfectly and balance the whole question of morality, of war or terror, in a way that sticks to the point of the film. The last 66 days of a young man’s life, at 27 and without any doubt in him at all, even when blind, even when no one could touch his body, he was prepared to see his mission through.
This balance that we have here in Bobby Sands 66 Days means that we’re getting the whole story, not a media or Government filtered story, but the truth. We have both sides of the conflict sharing their views, and the facts, and being honest about the situation. You learn, and I did too, although I thought I knew it all, the full story of the life of a man who became a martyr to the IRA and the Republican movement. The reason why there are only a few images of him around. The family that he left behind. The International coverage of the Hunger Strikes. These are all covered in the 2 hour running time. You just want more information, more from his diaries, more from his family, and in strange way you get swung from one point of view to another. The Troubles may be mostly behind us at this stage, with both sides taking the gun and the bomb out of the equation, but what happened in H Block in 1981 was where peace started to form. It took nearly 20 years to get to relative peace but we’re moving there now.
No matter what your politics, nationality, religion, or knowledge of Irish history, Bobby Sands 66 Days is a wake up call to the world. We need people to watch this film and realize that there are more options than terror to get to their goal. Learn from this documentary and continue to share the message from it, maybe the next generation of Terrorist or Freedom Fighter will remember some of the lessons and innocent lives won’t be lost. Peace and love!
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