Saturday, November 12, 2016
Bobby Sands 66 Days (2016) DOC NYC 2016
In 1981 I was 17. I was living in New York. One of the biggest news stories was the hunger strike in an Irish prison lead by Bobby Sands, a member of the Irish Republican Army. He demanded to be treated as a political prisoner, arguing that his crime was a political one and not criminal one. When the British refused to acknowledge that fact he and several other went on a hunger strike. It was an act that brought the world’s attention to a situation that most people either weren’t aware of or only paid lip service to. The death watch held everyone’s attention and forced everyone to reconsider the IRAs position and how one should protest.
Using talking heads of the people who knew Sands, were in the IRA, fought the IRA or just lived through the time and mixed it with Sands’ words, recreations, and use of archival film the documentary puts us into the time like never before. We are given enough background to understand why it came about, how it happened and what happened afterward on every level. The effect is crushing as you suddenly realize why it is still being talked about. Seriously even if you think you know what happened and why, this film will put it all into such bold relief and such perfect context of history it will change not only how you see what happened before but everything that has followed everywhere. That’s the power of the film, it takes the hunger strike and shows us not only the strike but it connects it up to the greater flow of history. It’s such a thorough examination that the film even touches on the mythology that has been created in the years since.
And the film seems to be very even handed because the film talks to people on all sides and doesn’t shy from the dark side of what was happening.
I was blown away. For years I’ve seen any number of documentaries that covered the subject which gave me the fact but not the context or the understanding really needed. Even Steve McQueen’s HUNGER didn’t do much other than show us Sands and his compatriots dying. Here at last not only did I get the facts I got enough understanding that my whole world changed.
The film is an absolute masterpiece. It is one of the best films at DOC NYC this year. If you missed the screening the film begins a theatrical release November 30 with a run at Film Forum in New York.