by Martin Hafer
When I was offered a chance to view Bobby Sands: 66 Days, my first reaction was one of surprise. After all, I hadn't heard this man's name mentioned in decades. I knew who he was....but thought he was an all but forgotten figure in Irish history. Well, apparently he is still remembered and director Trevor Birney has recently completed a documentary about this man.
To remember who Sands was, it's best if you are older. I'm in my 50s and clearly remember the many television news stories about this IRA member during his famous and very well-publicized hunger strike...but younger viewers might not have any idea who he was and why he was important. Back in the 70s, Sands and many other IRA members spent time in and out of British prisons. However, in the late 1970s, the British government decided to start treating these folks like common criminals and not accord them the 'special status' they had previously. Eventually, Sands and a group of other IRA prisoners decided that the way to draw attention to the cause of separation for Northern Ireland was to stop eating and even die if necessary. And so they did...and eventually this did result in lots of attention throughout the world.
Using old footage, photos, modern interviews and even an actor speaking Sands' words, the story is told and without too much in the way of hyperbole and politicization. This is difficult because although the violence in Northern Ireland has relented over the last 15 years, many folks still have very, very strong feelings about the cause--both pro and con. As for me, I was perhaps not the best person to watch the film as although it was very well made, I really was rather ambivalent about the subject matter. I am not an Irish-American, nor British-American, just anti-violence. I did feel the film was mildly interesting...but would be much more interesting to Brits and Irish folks. It most likely would make for a compelling story for these audiences. My only quibble, and it's a minor one, is that the film makes it seem that Sands' death helped the movement succeed but this wasn't exactly the case...at least not in any direct cause and effect way. The violence and incarcerations still continued all the way up until 2001 and Northern Ireland still is part of the United Kingdom. Still, you have to admire these folks for telling his story about as well as possible given the events occurred well over 30 years ago. They did show a real knack for telling his story.
Release Date: August 5 2016