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Yorick van Wageningen
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Documentary-style drama showing the events that led up to the tragic incident on January 30, 1972 in the Northern Ireland town of Derry when a protest march led by civil rights activist Ivan Cooper was fired upon by British troops, killing 13 protesters and wounding 14 more. Written by
Ruled ineligible to compete for an Oscar in 2003 because it was shown on Irish and British television on the same night that it premiered in a London theater, a violation of the motion picture academy's Rule 3, which requires a six-month wait between the time it is shown in theaters and the time it is shown on TV. See more »
The marchers carry homemade cardboard signs with slogans written on them. When shown from behind, some have modern printing ("Made in China") on them that are not appropriate for 1972. See more »
I just want to say this to the British Government... You know what you've just done, don't you? You've destroyed the civil rights movement, and you've given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have. All over this city tonight, young men... boys will be joining the IRA, and you will reap a whirlwind.
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After listing the casualties of the indicident portrayed in the film it adds, "More than 3000 people have been killed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland." See more »
One day of "the troubles" packs a universal wallop.
"Bloody Sunday" is a very startling, cinema-verite recreation of a very specific date (January 30, 1972), in a very specific place (Derry, Northern Ireland) of an event that for the Irish became "our Sharpeville."
But for an American audience with no benefit of subtitles for the brogues and working class Brit accents, no explanations outside of eventual context for lingo and slang (it took me awhile to keep track of "provos" vs "paras"), the quasi-documentary, in-your-face approach takes on a tragic universality.
It could be part of a Cassandra trilogy with `Black Hawk Down' and `No Man's Land' about why military should not be in charge in urban strife, whether as "peacekeepers" or in civil wars or regime changes, no matter how heinous the regime to be changed. A lesson for the Baghdad invasion planners?
Cities are complicated social ecologies, and the film shows a great diversity of attitudes and pressures on all sides, managing to be both clinical in meticulous detail and visceral in shocking impact. The film is probably not objective about the British (I don't think it's a coincidence that the imperious Brit "observer" who takes repugnant charge is played by Tim Pigott-Smith who was a similar colonialist in `The Jewel in the Crown.") A central universal image becomes the awesome power of rock-throwing, unemployed teen-age boys to spark war.
The liberals in the middle, clinging to dreams of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and fair community relations, are morally destroyed over the course of a few hours and the extremists with guns on both sides feed on each other in perpetual destruction like the ouroboros image of the snake eating itself. I kept feeling I missed the exact flash point in a wandering attention moment and wanted to immediately re-watch it to see if I could track the gotcha! moment when escalation could have been prevented, so I look forward to this being available on video tape.
But the film does clearly show that it was attitudes that created the violent outcome and consequent government non-investigation, as we see in so many police situations. Once soldiers enter a city it is a police situation with all those complexities.
I know James Nesbitt primarily from frothy Irish comedies, like `BallykissAngel,' so his staggering portrayal of the M.P. in the middle is a revelation, as he goes from planning a civil rights march to pleading with his girlfriend to physical heroism to a break-down in shock.
The version of the titular U2 song played out at the end, running well past the credits finish, is a moving, live, passionate audience sing-along where Bono shouts out other locales that have experienced similar situations to emphasize the universality.
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