These are the words of Bobby Sands, the IRA member who died on a hunger strike in 1981, protesting the British Government’s withdrawal of political prisoner status. Whenever the documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days quotes from his diary – written from his cell, while starving to death – it’s apparent that Sands had the kind of eloquence that comes from sincerity and thoughtfulness, and which can make poetry of the least literary writing.
Describing the poignant cries of birds flying freely beyond the bars of his window, or describing the deprivation suffered when that window is boarded up, the sentences recall the sparse, honest prose of Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries – which makes sense, considering that Guevara’s texts were central to IRA thought. Both Sands and Guevara show a genuine interest in the outside world, not just in how they can bend it to their will.
The problem with the Guevara comparison is that he is considered a romantic near-mythical hero by many of the same people who see Sands as a terrorist with blood on his hands. Certainly the Troubles are closer to home than the Cuban Revolution, and 66 Days has already caused anger: victims’ campaigner William Frazer has accused filmmaker Brendan J. Byrne of ‘glorifying murderers’. This point is endlessly arguable, of course: giving any sympathy to someone who implicitly condoned the deaths of women and children is going to be controversial.
But Byrne doesn’t shy away from the atrocities of the IRA or anyone else. He also apportions equal screen time to talking heads from both sides of the conflict, as well as to historians and journalists who seem to be doing their best to remain clear-sighted and impartial. Anyone prone to doing so is left to condemn themselves with their own uninterrupted self-justifying.
Not only does Byrne remain even-handed while dealing with a loaded subject, he manages to make his film moving without being sentimentally partisan. No matter where one’s loyalties lie, there is something affecting about Sands’ own suffering: "My body is broken and cold. I’m lonely and I need comfort".
|What||Bobby Sands: 66 Days film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
05 Aug 16 – 01 Oct 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|