Bobby Sands film defended for its 'insight' into suicide bombers

By Arifa Akbar
Friday May 16 2008

A controversial film documenting the final weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands has been defended by its makers at the Cannes Film Festival as a useful insight into the mindset of suicide bombers.

British director Steve McQueen poses during a photocall for his film 'Hunger' at the 61st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France Credit: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images

'Hunger', a 96-minute film by Steve McQueen, tells the tale of Sands, who died on hunger strike at Maze prison. The film has drawn criticism for creating a hero out of a terrorist.

But Jan Younghusband, executive producer of the film, said the harrowing story merely exposed the mentality of someone ready to die for a cause, such as the London suicide bombers.

"You look at suicide bombers and wonder what it is that drives them to kill themselves in their attempt to make the world better. This is a very contemporary issue, destroying your body for something you believe in," she said.

"We look at terrorists and we think 'aren't they horrible, they are blowing us up'. But we have to ask 'What is our role in that?' We are not without responsibility."

The gritty drama, the directorial debut for Turner-Prize-winning artist McQueen, focuses on the last six weeks of Sands' life. Jailed for possessing a gun, he became an icon in the Republican movement when he died in 1981 at the age of 27 after 66 days on hunger strike -- a protest at prisoners losing their political status.

Sands became an MP 25 days before he died; his death prompted several days of riots in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland and drew 100,000 people to his funeral.

Some have suggested the film's release is likely to rekindle bitter feelings in Belfast. Sands' family have been invited to see the film but have declined the offer of a personal screening.

McQueen, whose recent work includes a series of postage stamps bearing the faces of dead soldiers who had served in Iraq, said: "The body as site of political warfare is becoming a more familiar phenomenon. It is the final act of desperation; your own body is your last resource for protest."

The film's Dublin-born writer, Enda Walsh (best known for 'Disco Pigs') spent several weeks interviewing Sand's fellow prisoners and prison guards.

Its makers say the story draws a parallel between IRA prisoners in the Maze, and those currently in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay.

- Arifa Akbar

This film, I'm sure, will be very thought-provoking (to say the least), but I don't know if I can watch it...I mean, it's one thing to read about all that took place with them and then see similar things happening to people I know now in this War OF Terror.... but its another to actually watch a movie...

Maybe though I will...I can't decide yet

May God have mercy on him though, and all the rest, and their families. I pray for them always.
BTW, if you get a chance, read my essay (very long, sorry) about the Hunger Strike on my blog!
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