Thirty-four years after the death of Bobby Sands veteran director Brendan J. Byrne presents a meticulously researched and balanced recount of the hunger striker.
ncarcerated at the Maze Prison in 1977 for the possession of a firearm, Bobby Sands began his hunger strike in the Spring of 1981 as protest to the reclassification of IRA prisoners. Previously granted 'special category status', this position was diminished under Thatcher, and Sands, later joined by nine others, embarked on a hunger strike to force the British government to recognise them as more than criminals.


yrne gets inside the mind of Sands by having Martin McCann (The Survivalist) softly narrate Sands' diary which comprise of his troubled thoughts as he contemplates what he's doing, what is in store and the effect this is having on his mother. Running parallel to this is a biography of Sands: his childhood on the streets of Belfast and the experiences he had that led to joining the Provisional IRA in 1972 at the age of eighteen.
istorians, journalists (among them The Irish Times' Fintan O’Toole, who describes Sands dedication a "Victorian sense of duty"), biographers, politicians (Gerry Adams one of the faces), friends and former volunteers help paint a portrait of the man. There are physicians too who describe what is happening to the body as the days move into weeks (it's only after twenty eight days that the body begins to reach the point of no return). There's also a former guard at the Maze prison, who doesn't pull any punches about what it was like to work on the block: "Walking into an open sewer with forty people who wanted to kill us."
yrne ensures the story has a wider context, slipping in The Troubles 101 bullet points for those unversed (thankfully keeping that to a minimum) and shows how the strike captured the imagination of the international media (footage of ABC special reports and other news updates from around the globe). There's also a brief history of hunger strikes and a reminder that Sands wasn't the first to embark on such an ordeal in an Irish prison, focussing on Terrence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, who embarked on a hunger strike in 1920.
yrne also enforces a sombre tone throughout with the John Carpenter-esque eerie synths soundtracking the countdown of days as Sands' death approaches. It's a difficult watch but a rewarding one.