66 Days

  • 66 Days composer Edit Progue performing LIVE from Eglise St Merri

    Check this out. A great video of our 66 Days composer Edith Progue performing the title track from the film earlier this year - LIVE at the wonderful Eglise St Merri (Church of St Mary). We posted it before but the footage was from an iPhone. This version is professionally produced. It really kicks off around 2 minutes in.https://vimeo.com/191810298

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  • An Sionnach Fionn Review of 66 Days


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  • Daily Beast 66 Days Review


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  • Unseen Films: 66 Days review


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  • 10 Films to keep an eye on at DOC NYC


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  • Bobby Sands 66 Days Most Successful Northern Irish Film in Recent Years

    Brendan J. Byrne’s critically acclaimed documentary Bobby Sands 66 Days has become one of the biggest Northern Irish films ever at the Northern Ireland Box Office surpassing recent hits Steve McQueen’s Hunger which starred Michael Fassbender and the Terri Hooley bio-pic Good Vibrations.

    While Hunger took £109k and Good Vibrations took £103k in total at the Northern Ireland Box Office, Bobby Sands 66 Days which is heading into its fourth week of release, has taken £110k so far. This figure is set to grow even more as the film continues to draw audiences with sold out screenings and new cinema openings including the Odyssey in Belfast today.

    Speaking about this milestone, director Brendan J. Byrne said “This is simply fantastic news. This film has been dear to my heart and thus far, is certainly the pinnacle of my documentary making career. I knew it was very important subject matter and we hoped that it would attract audiences north and south. The sheer box office success of 66 Days, added to our critical acclaim, has been a little unexpected but very welcome for everyone on the production team. It just proves that people do love a good documentary and now that the box office for 66 Days has even surpassed two fiction films - both of which I admire hugely (Hunger and Good Vibrations), I hope we’ll see more documentaries in our local cinemas. Bobby Sands: 66 Days is just the first of a number of exciting feature documentaries from Fine Point Films due to premiere at major international film festivals in the next 12 months."

    The controversial documentary which is a portrait of Bobby Sand’s 66-day hunger strike has garnered much publicity and debate on both sides of the border.

    At 17, Bobby Sands was interested in girls, soccer and music. Ten years later he led a prison protest against the conditions in Northern Ireland’s infamous H-Blocks that grabbed the attention of the whole world. Seeing himself as a soldier in a conflict, Bobby Sands starved for the right to be recognised as a political prisoner. The film’s narrative is comprised of Sands’ own words, drawn from his hunger strike diary, which gives a powerful and personal insight into the man and his beliefs as he embarked on his final journey.

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  • Press Release: BOBBY SANDS 66 DAYS Smashes Irish Opening Weekend Box Office Records

    Belfast made documentary breaks Irish Box Office Record in opening weekend

    BOBBY SANDS 66 DAYS has achieved the highest opening weekend ever at the Irish box office for a home grown documentary. The film which was released in cinemas across the island of Ireland by Wildcard Distribution is now the second highest (non-concert) documentary opening of all-time after the international cinema hit Fahrenheit 911. The Oscar winning Amy (also released in Ireland by Wildcard on behalf of Altitude) is in 3rd position.

    In the opening weekend in Northern Ireland, more cinema goers watched Bobby Sands:66 Days than went toboth Star Trek and Ghostbusters, slotting in at No.5 in the Box Office Chart.

    Commenting on the news, Patrick O’Neill MD of Wildcard: “It’s a great achievement for Bobby Sands: 66 Days to break this Box Office record, and very rewarding for everyone at Wildcard and Fine Point who worked so hard on the film. Brendan and Trevor are great filmmakers, and they have made a stunning film about an icon that is resonating with audiences across the island of Ireland. The documentary has now surpassed the previous Irish record holder The Queen of Ireland’s opening weekend, which is testament to the quality of the production and the creativity delivered in a must see film”.

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  • The Irish News: Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days

    Brendan J Byrne's new documentary Bobby Sands: 66 Days combines evocative narration of Sands' prison diary with archive news footage, contemporary interviews and custom animation to bring the republican icon's life story to the screen. Ardoyne-born Byrne spoke to David Roy about making the film

    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Bobby Sands: 66 Days examines the man behind the famous republican mural
    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Famous image of Bobby Sands taken from a photo in Long Kesh prison. From left: Thomas Louden, Gerard Rooney, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands
    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Brendan J Byrne, director of Bobby Sands: 66 Days
    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Bobby Sands "was acutely aware of republican history and the power of hunger strike through Irish history"
    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Bobby Sands: 66 Days examines the man behind the famous republican mural
    • Director Brendan J Byrne on new Bobby Sands doc 66 Days
      Famous image of Bobby Sands taken from a photo in Long Kesh prison. From left: Thomas Louden, Gerard Rooney, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands
    David Roy
    21 July, 2016 01:00

    BOBBY Sands: 66 Days is a new documentary based around extracts from the late republican's prison diary.

    Brendan J Byrne's film employs a combination of harrowing archive footage, custom animation and dramatic reconstruction along with prison diary narration by Belfast actor Martin McCann to examine Sands's incarceration as well as his motivation for joining the republican movement at age 18.

    The 27-year-old Belfast man died on May 5 1981 while serving a 14-year sentence in Long Kesh prison for possession of a gun used in a terrorist attack.

    Sands' death came on the 66th day of a hunger strike against the British government's refusal to grant 'political prisoner' status to IRA inmates – less than a month after he had been elected as the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone on an 'anti-H-Block' ticket.

    The documentary sets the actions of Sands and the nine other IRA hunger strikers who subsequently died in the 1981 protests in a wider political and historical context, exploring their impact on the evolution of the republican movement and the north's peace process.

    While the Sands family themselves declined to participate, the film features interviews with Bobby Sands' republican comrades including Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison and Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane as well as the recollections of former Long Kesh prison officer Dessie Waterworth, along with contributions from Margaret Thatcher's biographer Charles Moore, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit and Irish journalist Fintan O'Toole.

    Byrne, who has previously made TV documentaries on the 1983 Long Kesh escape and Guilford Four man Gerry Conlon, was partly inspired to make the new film after seeing Steve McQueen's Bafta-winning 2008 feature Hunger.

    "While I loved Hunger, I still came away from it thinking 'Who is Bobby Sands? Where did he come from?'," explains the Ardoyne-born director and producer of the film, which premiered at the HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto in May.

    "He didn't come out of nowhere. He'd read republican history, he knew about [Cork hunger striker] Terence MacSwiney, James Connolly and Patrick Pearse.

    "He was acutely aware of republican history and the power of hunger strike through Irish history dating back 7,000 years."

    66 Days' 'calling card' is its innovative use of Sands' prison diary, in which the IRA man eloquently recorded his thoughts about imprisonment, hunger strike and republicanism for the first 17 days of his protest.

    Its opening line, heard at the start of the documentary, sets the tone for what follows: "I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world... may God have mercy on my soul".

    "I wanted to make Sands central to the film, so I figured that we'd use his diary to put his voice front and centre of the movie," explains Byrne.

    "I just thought, 'has anybody outside of republicanism or a small number of academics actually read this?'

    "I decided to give the film to Sands – to let the audience be brought along in his words."

    The diary comes to life thanks to vivid animations by Peter Strain and the voice talent of Martin McCann, who was always Byrne's "first choice" to 'play' Sands.

    "I've worked with Martin a good few times," says Byrne, who will be bringing 66 Days to Belfast at the end of this month for special Feile / Belfast Film Festival screenings prior to its Irish cinema release on August 5.

    "I know him well and I like him a lot. I didn't want an 'ack-tor's' voice, I needed someone with an authentic Belfast voice who also understood the delivery.

    "Marty is originally from west Belfast where Bobby Sands lived for many years, and he's easy to work with."

    Although there have previously been two major feature films inspired by Bobby Sands in the aformentioned Hunger and Terry George's 1996 picture Some Mother's Son, 66 Days is the first major non-fiction account of the late republican.

    I asked Byrne why it's taken 35 years for that to happen.

    "I suppose the obvious answer is just that no-one had been driven to make it," he tells me.

    "A film and a subject always needs the film-maker to meet it – and I'm the one who's finally went 'ah right, that's my territory – that's the stuff I'm trying to make sense of in terms of who I am and where I grew up'.

    "The other thing is, I think in terms of ambition for a film a about Bobby Sands, and a factual one, there was probably a nervousness about the controversy surrounding it.

    "I remember talking to a couple of professional colleagues when I first started off and they were like 'oh Jesus, are you kidding? Are you wise?'

    "But I think that was a very narrow Northern Irish response, whereas I wanted to make a film for a world audience."

    Of course, there's little doubt that 66 Days will be illuminating for some viewers closer to home who may have grown up with a different take on what happened to Bobby Sands than the facts support.

    Byrne says: "There's a particular unionist perception that Bobby Sands was a pawn – that the whole hunger strike was manipulated and that the outside IRA leadership were manipulating them and telling them what to do.

    "But on the contrary: as Fintan O'Toole says in the film, here was Bobby Sands doing something in prison that in some ways the IRA didn't even understand."

    Indeed, the film recalls how the vote for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election in which Sands was a candidate fell on the same day as the funeral of IRA victim Joanne Mathers, the 29-year-old Derry mother shot dead on April 7 1981 "for the crime of collecting census forms".

    "He was sacrificing to gain publicity and yet they were killing people which was getting negative publicity – so it just proves that in the heady days of 1981, there was no grand master plan," the film-maker continues.

    "There were many different immediate agendas in focus and Bobby Sands was nobody's pawn. He chose the moment and created his own history – as Fintan O'Toole says, not in a megalomaniac way, but as someone who felt he knew what needed to be done at that moment in time to protect the integrity of the republican struggle. And he did it.

    "That's why he'll probably be remembered as one of the most significant individuals from the second half of 20th century Irish history."

    While Sands' agreement to stand for election may not have saved his life nor the lives of his fellow hunger strikers, it can now be seen as a watershed moment in the Troubles and for Irish republicanism.

    "That changed everything," argues Byrne.

    "The consequences were seismic and significant and we continue to live with them to day. There's no peace process, there's no 'Good Friday Agreement' without it."

    :: Bobby Sands: 66 Days will screen on Saturday July 30 at Omniplex, Kennedy Centre, Belfast, with additional previews on August 3 and 4 prior to its general release on August 5. See Belfastfilmfestival.org and 66daysthefilm.com/screenings for full details.

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  • 'Stylishly made, visually arresting, poetic flourishes, nimble score.' - Sunday Times review

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  • Independent: Five must-see Irish movies at Galway Film Fleadh

    Five must-see Irish movies at Galway Film Fleadh

    Jack Fagan

    PUBLISHED 05/07/2016

    Bobby Sands: 66 Days

    Galway Film Fleadh kicks off today and to celebrate the 'Cannes of the Corrib' festival we've picked five must-see Irish movies for your viewing pleasure.

    1 The Young Offenders


    The Young Offenders is a comedy road movie is based on a true story of Ireland’s biggest cocaine seizure in 2007. You're probably wondering how you could make a comedy movie out of drug smuggling but trust us, this works. The main characters of the story are best friends Conor and Jock, who are two peas in a pod when you get down to it. When a cocaine smuggling boat capsizes off the coast of West Cork and 61 bales of cocaine, each bale being worth €7 Million, are seized by law enforcement word gets out a bale is missing. Hoping to escape their troubled lives by selling the missing bale, the boys steal two bikes and go on a bike journey to find the missing bale.

    Directed by Peter Foott, with a cast including Chris Walley, Alex Murphy, Hillary Rose and PJ Gallagher.

    2 Bobby Sands: 66 Days


    Echoing Steve McQueen's Hunger, Bobby Sands: 66 Days is a documentary that explores the remarkable life and death of the Irish Republican, whose actions continue to inspire people today. The film is composed of Sands’ own words that are taken from his hunger strike diary which gives a unique insight into the man whose death marked a turning point in the relationship between Britain and Ireland, and brought a global spotlight to the Northern Irish conflict which later caused international efforts to intervene to reach a resolution.

    Directed by Brendan J Byrne.

    3 A Dark Song


    A Dark Song is an Irish horror that follows a young mother by the name of Sophia who moves to an old house in the remote countryside so she can enlist the help of an occultist by the name of Solomon. She requires his help to perform The Abramelin; an ancient invocation ritual which will allow them to summon up Sophia’s guardian angel so her wish can become true. In order to complete the ritual they must seal themselves in the house for months as it plays out. As the ritual continues they run the risk of going mad.

    Directed by Liam Gavin with a cast including Catherine Walker,Steve Oram, Mark Hubberman and Susan Loughnane.

    4 Property of the State


    Property of the State is a drama based on a true story that shocked the Irish public in 1990, it tells the story of a disturbed man called Brendan O’Donnell from the perspective of his sister Ann Marie. Bit by Bit she pieces together the events that led to the horrifying murders of a young mother, her child and a local priest in a forest located in East Clare, Ireland.

    Directed by Kit Ryan with a cast including Patrick Gibson, Aisling Loftus, David Rawle and Elaine Cassidy.

    5 A Date for Mad Mary


    A Date for Mad Mary is a Tender and tough about friendship, the main character is “Mad” Mary McArdle returns to Drogheda after a short prison sentence for something she doesn’t want to remember. Back in Drogheda, everything and everyone is different. Her best friend Charlene is getting married and asks Mary to be a maid of honour, but when Charlene takes away Mary’s plus one privileges stating that she probably wouldn’t be able to find a date, Mary finds a determination to prove her wrong , but her attempts at dating are a disaster and she winds up feeling more alone - until she meets Jess and everything changes.

    Directed by Darren Thornton with a cast including Seána Kerslake, Tara Lee, Charleigh Bailey, Denise McCormack and Siobhán Shanahan.

    Galway Film Fleadh takes place between July 5 and 10 with a programme that features over 150 films from 60 different countries.

    Online Editors

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  • Irish Times : The Galway Film Fleadh kicks off

    Donald Clarke


    The Galway Film Fleadh kicks off

    We salute the best in the west and offer a few suggestions

    It’s the middle of the year. That busy awards season has receded in the mirror. We’ve seen a new cinematic year launched at Cannes. That Toronto/Telluride/Venice Trifecta is still a safe distance away. This must mean it’s time for The Galway Film Fleadh. Launched in the 1980s, when it still felt slightly mad to be a film person in Ireland, the event has now become a much-loved institution. Nowhere else will you see quite so many new domestic features. We’ve already seen a few of the best films. A few others have kicked up some kerfuffle elsewhere.

    If you are making your way to Galway — or remaining there — for the Fleadh be sure to keep eyes open for the many special events. Ruth Negga and Jim Sheridan are both hosting masterclasses. My colleague Tara Brady will be there on Saturday for discussions on “Women in Film”. Heck, just stand outside the Town Hall for five minutes and you’re sure to encounter somebody interesting.

    Anyway, here are five Irish releases to see. There are many, many more where that came from.

    IN VIEW (Ciaran Creagh)

    Searing drama on depression and bereavement starring Caoilfhionn Dunne as a Dublin Guard who fights to recover from guilt and bereavement. Has already played to acclaim at the Dallas International Film Festival. (Thursday, Town Hall, 8.00pm)

    A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Darren Thornton)

    They could hardly have timed it better. A few days after Thornton’s comic drama — concerning a Louth girl just out of prison — debuted to raves at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Festival it arrives in Galway. Seána Kerslake stars. (Friday Town Hall, 6.00pm)

    BOBBY SANDS: 66 DAYS (Brendan J Byrne)

    Over three decades after they ended, the hunger strikes in the Maze remain fiercely controversial. Byrne’s already praised documentary approaches the story from every angle. The great Martin McCann speaks Bobby Sands’s words. (Friday, Town Hall, 8.00pm)


    This really is a bit of a coup for the Fleadh. Richie Smyth’s film stars Jamie Dornan in a study of the Irish UN soldiers who, in 1961, encountered such famously savage resistance in the Congo. This is the first public screening of the Netflix production. (Saturday, Town Hall, 8.00pm)


    Mark O’Connor is an unstoppable force. The director of Between the Canals and Stalker returns with a tale of shakers making the best of a hard station in Darndale. John Connors, an O’Connor regular, both writes and stars. (Saturday, Town Hall, 10.00pm)

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  • Top picks for the Galway Film Fleadh 2016

    Top picks for the Galway Film Fleadh 2016

    Just some of the Irish movies we can look forward to
    Just some of the Irish movies we can look forward to

    The annual Galway Film Fleadh starts on Tuesday, with over 150 movies for audiences to look forward to over its six day run. Harry Guerin picks out a handful of the ones that he's excited about, and finds out more from the people who made them.

    Creative Control

    Winner of the Special Jury Award for Visual Excellence at the world famous SXSW festival in the US, Benjamin Dickinson's Creative Control opens this year's Fleadh. The story is set five minutes in the future as ad executive David Conway (played by Dickinson and named in honour of his Irish great-grandfather) borrows the 'Augmented Reality' glasses from the campaign he's working on to bring a different outlook to his own love life. "It's about the three-headed hydra of technology, drugs, and consumer capitalism," says Dickinson as he gears up for his first visit to Ireland.

    "It's about addiction, it's about the inability of privileged persons to have intimate relationships with one another, and it's an attempt to find the humour in all of that. I expect Irish audiences may have some familiarity with these themes. I hope so; if not, at least the images are nice to look at!"

    Tuesday July 5 Town Hall Theatre

    In View

    Caoilfhionn Dunne brought contract killer Lizzie unforgettably to life in RTÉ'sLove/Hate, but her role in this drama may prove to be just as big a talking point - this time as part of the national dialogue on depression. Dunne plays Ruth, an alcoholic Garda trying to come to terms with the loss of her baby and husband in writer-director Ciarán Creagh's film. Given the power and nuance of Creagh's script for the Colm Meaney-starring homeless drama Parked, much is expected of his debut feature.

    "It's an emotionally suffocating experience that, while uncomfortable, is incredibly potent and Caoilfhionn Dunne as Ruth is magnificent," he says. "I know people have to say this and that, but when you see her in this she is just amazing."

    Thursday July 7 Town Hall Theatre

    The Automatic Hate

    American director Justin Lerner is making his second visit to the Fleadh, having brought his first film, Girlfriend, to the City of the Tribes in 2011. His follow-up tells the story of Davis Green (Running with Scissors star Joseph Cross) who receives a late-night visit from Alexis (Adelaide Clemens) - the cousin he never knew existed. So just what tore their families apart?

    "It's the type of film that's best experienced in a large crowd on a big screen," says Lerner, "given the subject matter and some of the more intensely awkward scenes, namely, the 'family dinner sequence', which has not failed in any of the seven countries where we've screened to elicit shouting, gasping, and screams.

    It will be fun to see what Ireland thinks of the film. If anything, it will make anyone with their own crazy family feel a little better about it all!"

    Thursday July 7 Cinemobile

    Tiger Raid

    Domhnall Gleeson had quite the 12 months with Brooklyn, The Force Awakensetc, but 2016 looks like being the year when brother Brian really gets in on the big screen - ahem - action, starting with this Middle East-set thriller. Based on Mayo man Mick Donnellan's play Radio Luxembourg, it tells the story of two mercenaries (Gleeson and Damien Molony) who are en route to kidnap a powerful man's daughter when their past catches up with them.

    Donnellan has also adapted the story for the screen and says it's a "great buzz" to see Tiger Raid come to the city where his play premiered in 2014. As to what's in store for the Fleadh audience, he says: "The tension is almost unrelenting until it's burst by the black comedy that reminds us we're in a highly volatile world where any amount of violent things could happen - and usually do!" We like the look of them stripes.

    Thursday July 7 Town Hall Theatre

    The Wall

    Really intriguing one this - filmed in Belfast, and North Korea. Director David Kinsella wanted to make a documentary about a poet in North Korea but the regime saw the film as a vehicle for propaganda. So, changing tack, Kinsella filmed in such a way that his visuals could be overlaid with animations when he left North Korea to tell the real story.

    But there's a deeply personal element, too, as Kinsella realised that the North Korean line of "all foreigners are spies and evil" was the one he had been told as a child in Belfast. "People need to know," he says. "They need to realise, that if you let someone else define reality, you become a mindless slave. Everybody should see for himself. Learn for himself." You could spend an hour just gorging on the visuals in the trailer.

    Thursday July 7 Cinemobile

    Bobby Sands: 66 Days

    When Republican Bobby Sands went on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981, director Brendan J Byrne was a teenage Belfast schoolboy, and he describes the events of that year as a "seminal moment" in his young life. "There have, of course, been several fiction films made already which have dealt with Bobby Sands," he says, "but I felt that a significant narrative deficit remained in terms of understanding who Bobby Sands was.

    "I've focused my attention on the real Bobby Sands through an exploration of his ideology, his writings and the foundations of his Irish Republican heritage. Who was he, where did he come from, what politicised him, and what eventually drove a young 27-year-old father of one to pursue a deadly hunger strike against the wishes of the IRA leadership?"

    Friday July 8 Town Hall Theatre

    Lost in France

    The Glasgow music scene of the 1990s carved out its own little republic in the mind of young Irishman Niall McCann. So when McCann was searching for an idea for his second documentary he looked across the water for inspiration and found a great hook. Way back when, a bunch of Glasgow bands loaded up the buses and headed off to play a gig in remote Brittany.

    "This trip, it seems, was a punctuation point between childhood and adulthood, music as a hobby and music as a livelihood," says McCann. "The idea occurred to me to try and take them back there, to that little town in France in the middle of nowhere, and give them the space to reflect on their lives, their art and their friendships." So, a trip down memory lane with the best of soundtracks - but also an opportunity to examine just how much making music has changed from those wonder years.

    Friday July 8 Cinemobile

    A Date for Mad Mary

    Director Darren Thornton made a lot of friends at the Fleadh back in 2007 with his short Frankie, and now he's hoping for the same kind of feedback from the Irish premiere of his first feature film. Just released from prison 'Mad' Mary McArdle (Seána Kerslake) comes home to Drogheda but finds a lot has changed since she's been away.

    Best friend Charlene (Charleigh Bailey), meanwhile, is getting married and Mary will be the maid of honour. But there's a catch: Charlene won't put Mary down as a 'plus one' because she reckons Mary won't be able to get a date. Mary, however, is out to prove her wrong. But will everything work out for the best just in time?

    Friday July 8 Town Hall Theatre

    The Young Offenders

    A world premiere at the Fleadh and, by the looks of it, Irish feelgood at its finest. Having racked up the YouTube millions (views, that is) with his promo video for The Rubberbandits' Horse Outside, Peter Foott is out to capture the spirit of The Gooniesand Stand by Me in his feature debut. The film is inspired by the record 2007 seizure of €440m worth of cocaine off the Cork coast, along with a less-publicised story: the 160-km bike adventure Foott took down to West Cork as a teenager.

    "We were totally under-prepared and everything that could go wrong did go wrong on this trip," he laughs. "I just married the two stories together: my experiences of cycling down and that news story of the cocaine getting washed up." And so Foott's main characters Conor and Jock (played by newcomers Alex Murphy and Chris Walley) get pedalling in the hope of a finding a missing bale and striking it rich.

    Friday July 8 Town Hall Theatre

    History's Future

    It's all about the timing... As Europe tries to make sense of the Brexit result, visual artist Fiona Tan's film is billed as "one man's odyssey through a Europe in turmoil".Adam & Paul's Mark O'Halloran plays 'MP' (Missing Person), a mugging victim who has suffered amnesia and is on a quest across the continent to try and put the pieces together and, perhaps, gain a new identity.

    "The idea stemmed from the very recent past, everything that has happened here in the last eight years - the financial crisis, the ensuing crises," explains Tan. "In that sense it is very simple. I try to map for myself the feelings citizens of Europe, and that includes myself, are currently experiencing. But those feelings themselves are quite complex. Perhaps that makes the film a bit complicated. Also, there is no answer yet, no conclusion because we are still right in the middle of it..."

    Saturday July 9 Town Hall Theatre

    It's Not Yet Dark

    Colin Farrell narrates this eagerly-awaited documentary, which tells the story of Irish writer-director Simon Fitzmaurice's life with motor neuron disease. It's Not Yet Dark is based on Fitzmaurice's acclaimed 2014 memoir of the same name, a book which Farrell described at the time of publication as "a beautiful love story".

    Despite the ravages of the disease, Fitzmaurice released his first feature film, My Name is Emily, earlier this year after its debut in Galway last summer and in It's Not Yet Dark director Frankie Fenton follows him as that big screen dream becomes a reality. "If I have managed to get even an ounce of the spirit and fight that flows through Simon Fitzmaurice onto that screen you will hopefully be in for an uplifting and life-affirming experience," he says. We have no doubts.

    Saturday July 9 Town Hall Theatre

    Mom & Me

    Hankies at the ready - and probably not a dry eye in the house at the Irish premiere at the Fleadh this weekend. Having wowed audiences across Ireland back in 2010 with his longform love letter His & Hers - seventy women across the Midlands talking about the men in their lives - director Ken Wardrop returns to the ties that bind for his long-awaited follow-up. This time, however, he's focussing on the relationships between mothers and sons, with the US, and in particular the state of Oklahoma, as the backdrop. As with His & Hers, Wardrop's subjects are from all walks of life.

    "As you get to a certain age and your parents get older you do worry about the future and how to look after them and so on," says Wardrop. "It's something that I think certainly inspired this film." If the trailer is anything to go by, it seems that the American Mammy and her Irish counterpart have a lot more in common than just the 'grown-up boys' in their lives.

    Saturday July 9 Town Hall Theatre

    The Siege of Jadotville

    When first announced two summers ago, Dublin director Richie Smyth's film sounded like one of the most interesting Irish movies in quite some time. Streaming giant Netflix clearly thought so - it bought the rights for its 81 million subscribers around the world.

    But it's the audience at the Fleadh that will have the opportunity to put eyeballs onThe Siege of Jadotville first. Starring Fifty Shades of Grey's Jamie Dornan, it tells the true story of the 150 Irish UN troops under the command of Commandant Pat Quinlan (Dornan) who were attacked by forces loyal to Katangese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe in the Congo in September 1961.

    No trailer yet, but you can feel the grit and tension in all the production photos released thus far.

    Saturday July 9 Town Hall Theatre


    It looks like the Fleadh has found a really special film to close the festival again this year. When director Len Collin saw Christian O'Reilly's play Sanctuary about intellectual disability and romance he knew it should be a film. "It was funny, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, but most importantly, it was a world that's never been seen on film outside the documentary arena," explains Collin.Watch the trailer and feel your heart melt.

    Playwright O'Reilly has written the script and stars Charlene Kelly and Kieran Coppinger have reprised their stage roles. "It's a film that will make you laugh, give you a lump in your throat perhaps… but the one thing it won't do is disappoint you," Collin maintains. "The world premiere is at the Film Fleadh… I want Galway to tell the world how good it is."

    Sunday July 10 Town Hall Theatre

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  • Audio: Director Brendan J Byrne talks to Q Radio about @66DaysTheFilm

    Brendan Byrne interview audio

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  • Galway Advertiser: 66 Days - Bobby Sands life examined in new documentary

    66 Days - Bobby Sands life examined in new documentary

    'They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn't want to be broken'

    AddThis Sharing Buttons
    Bobby Sands.

    Bobby Sands.

    IRA VOLUNTEER, hero, martyr, terrorist, criminal, political prisoner, poet, MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, writer, icon, Irish Republican - Bobby Sands was some of these things, and he has been described as all of these things.

    In this year of the 35th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes, the leading and iconic figure in that event, Bobby Sands, is the subject of a new documentary, Bobby Sands: 66 Days, directed by Brendan Byrne, will be screened on Friday July 8 at 4pm in the Town Hall Theatre, as part of the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh.

    The best place to get to know Sands is through his prose and poetry as collected in his book Writings From Prison, but Sands' life and actions also had very wide and far reaching consequences. The hunger strikes saw the IRA (and INLA ) in a duel to the death with Margaret Thatcher in a demand for the right to be recognised as political prisoners.

    Thatcher refused to give way and won praise for her stance. Yet, after the hunger strikes were called off, the prisoners demands were quietly met. In the following years, British diplomats were instructed that the strikes were a defeat for the UK government. Sands' stance turned him into an international figure, and his election as an MP became a powerful argument for Sinn Féin to embrace politics, leading the movement towards eventual ceasefire and the peace process.

    66 Days tells the story of Sands’ life on film for the first time, based on the diary he kept for the 17 days of his hunger strike, along with eye-witness testimony, unseen archive, reconstructions, and animation. Alongside this, the film also seeks to understand the events that first politicised Sands and the influences of Irish Republican history on Sands’ actions.

    Variety said of the film: "This finely crafted documentary may well long stand as the most balanced among such treatments, as it respectfully examines Sands’ folk-heroic legacy rather than simply amplifying it."

    Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie There will be a panel discussion post-screening with Brendan Byrne and The Irish Times' Fintan O’Toole.

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  • 'Bobby Sands: 66 Days': Sheffield Doc/Fest Review

    'Bobby Sands: 66 Days': Sheffield Doc/Fest Review

    Dir. Brendan J. Byrne. Ireland/UK. 2016. 105 mins.

    This evocative documentary about the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in 1981 probes some deeply contentious issues which benefit from a cooler 35-year perspective. Veteran documentarian Brendan J. Byrne’s sensitive and balanced film peels back the years to show Northern Ireland in the grips of its troubles, then carefully layers in historical context with modern-day theorising.

    Sands is a hard figure to flesh out, an ideal blank slate on which to reflect a movement, argues Byrne’s piece

    Empathetic editing by Paul Devlin makes Bobby Sands: 66 Days important for those with an interest in subjects ranging from Northern Ireland itself to the development of modern-day terrorism and the iconography of the armed struggle. This intelligent, yet humane documentary should enjoy long play as a learning tool, after its Sheffield Doc/Fest Competition slot and Storyville TV outing.

    A fictionalised version of Bobby Sands has been presented on film before, in Steve McQueen’s Hunger where he was played by Michael Fassbender, but also in Terry George’sSome Mother’s Son (played by John Lynch). This Irish Film Board/Northern Ireland Screen/BBC Northern Ireland/Storyville-assisted project nourishes the story, taking the image of the poet-revolutionary Sands off the protest banners and the Falls Road murals and awarding him political and military context with some interesting observations from Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole about the mythology surrounding his death and his own “artistic triumph”.

    Sands is a hard figure to flesh out, an ideal blank slate on which to reflect a movement argues Byrne’s piece. Born in 1954 on the outskirts of Belfast, he was forced to abandon his home and, eventually, his job, through sectarian harassment, and was a natural candidate to join the Provisional IRA at the age of 18. During the height of the Troubles in 1972 - the year which started with Bloody Sunday and ended with almost 500 killings - he was jailed for the first time for weapons possession, eventually released, and imprisoned again in 1977 for the same crime and sentenced to 14 years in jail.

    Bobby Sands didn’t live much outside the Republican struggle, jail consumed his brief adult life and a short-lived marriage gave him a son he never saw. By the time Sands led the second hunger strike at the Maze prison, starving himself to death for the right to be classified as a political prisoner, he was firmly directing his own destiny, conscious of his place in history.

    Moving backwards and forwards through Sands’ life within the framework of these 66 days, Bobby Sands provides a vivid picture of Northern Ireland at that time. Byrne has assembled an absorbing array of commentators from all sides, from Gerry Adams to Norman Tebbit and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, to Sands’ election agent Owen Carron (still a so-called ‘on the run’). Placing Sands within the context of political martyrdom and rebel iconography is helpful towards understanding what took hold of Northern Ireland at that time.

    The documentary is keen to remind viewers that 3,500 people died during the Troubles, and that Sands was only one of 10 hunger strikers who starved themselves to death to make a point which, although difficult to understand now, is clearly explained here. The effectiveness of the action - prompting Sands’ election as a British Member of Parliament during the strike, newsflashes across the world on his death, followed by rioting - is also startlingly clear. Martin McCann voices Sands’ diary entries and poetry, evocative of Steve McQueen’s film.

    Production companies: Fine Point Films, Cyprus Avenue Films

    International sales: Content Media

    Producers: Trevor Birney, Brendan J. Byrne

    Consulting producer: Alex Gibney

    Cinematography: David Barker

    Editor: Paul Devlin

    Music: Edith Progue

    Featuring: Fintan O’Toole, Tim Pat Coogan, Gerry Adams, Norman Tebbit, Charles Moore, Owen Carron, Colm Scullion, Father Sean McManus

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  • IrishCentral: "35 years on hunger striker Bobby Sands remains unforgettable." (VIDEO)

    Political campaigner and hunger striker Bobby Sands.

    For centuries in Ireland under the system of justice known as the Brehon Laws, if you wanted to protest a wrong done to you by an offending party and could find no satisfaction from the perpetrator, you had the final option of sitting on their doorstep and protesting the injustice through a hunger strike.

    It was a last course of action, one usually taken by the powerless against the mighty, but it was a particularly effective one. In the Irish parlance, you had the right to make a holy show of the person who had wronged you. In a move that Irish society considered perfectly acceptable, you could publicly shame them from sunrise to sunset.

    The nation was then, and is still now, a distinctly communal one, a place where your reputation is a thing of great consequence, and where loss of face means loss of status.

    I bring this up in reference to Bobby Sands. For years in the North, Republican prisoners were granted “special category status” which afforded them different treatment from ordinary offenders, but by 1977 that category was eliminated by the British government.

    Read more: Bobby Sands and “Ten Men Dead” how the best Troubles book got written

    In response to the change Sands, who had been imprisoned twice on weapons possession charges, joined his fellow Republican prisoners in a series of increasingly dramatic protests to amend their status. Then came the era of Margaret Thatcher and the kind of no quarter politics that prolonged the standoff and frankly the war.

    Margaret Thatcher.

    Margaret Thatcher.

    Thatcher condemned what she called these “blackmail” requests for “special privileges” and reminded Republican prisoners they were simply “common criminals.”

    By 1980, at 27, Sands had spent one-third of his life in prison. His final response to the long stalemate was to commence a second hunger strike, an action that was not favored by the Republican leadership after his first one had ended.

    But in the end he proceeded with his plan and he was joined by several others. In the 66 days between the start of his fast and his eventual death, he changed the course of Irish history.

    Firstly, Sands’ action reminded many that there was a much more effective way to respond to the conflict than through force of arms, a development that would ripple and carry forward for years after his passing. Even the implacable Thatcher was outmaneuvered on the world’s stage, eventually granting most of the Republican prisoners' demands.

    Secondly, he brought the world’s attention to bear again on the North after the decade-long campaign of violence had caused many to look away. This was a David vs. Goliath human drama that people could understand. Thatcher was not thrilled to find herself cast in the role of pitiless aggressor and she was privately furious.

    That outmaneuvering was at every turn. “How can I talk to the prisoners when they have no support, no mandate?" she had asked. That question was answered when Sands was elected by the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, with more votes than Thatcher had picked up in her home constituency of Finchley. Her response was to refuse to negotiate and to change the law to prevent other prisoners from running.

    Thirdly, Thatcher’s give-no-quarter approach backfired spectacularly. Far from demoralizing her opponents, it actually radicalized a new generation, sent countless new recruits to the IRA, and coupled the armalite with the ballot box, a development that transformed Sinn Fein’s political fortunes.

    A new documentary titled "Bobby Sands: 66 Days" by director Brendan J. Byrne tells the story of this time and separates the man from the myth. The film looks at the violent events that first politicized him and the growing historical awareness that radicalized his thinking.

    What you may not know about Sands, what the British portrayal of him as a violent thug and the hands-off approach of the Dublin government both tried to capsize, is that he spoke and wrote with a maturity that belied his years.

    In prison, he wrote, “I would think back to the days of my youth.” Incarcerated for so long that the only escape was in his imagination, he would daydream about his childhood. The contrast between the freedom of it and where he found himself later helped him steel himself for his hunger strike.

    His death 35 years ago brought the whole of Ireland to a standstill, in a moment of shocking clarity that made all parties to the conflict take stock while the world looked on. That moment may have been a Rubicon, a moment in which Sands’ actions changed how many approached and thought of the conflict itself. Some would argue that it led on to later political settlements too.

    Meanwhile Byrne's new documentary about his life and legacy carefully recreates the period and is already being hailed as one of the most visceral and comprehensive films about the Troubles ever made. It will be released in the U.S. later this summer.

    Read more: News from Northern Ireland here


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  • Variety Film Review: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’

    Film Review: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’

    Bobby Sands-66 Days Movie Review

    A terminal hunger strike that caught the world’s attention is recapped in “Bobby Sands: 66 Days.”

    A terminal hunger strike that caught the world’s attention — and arguably helped shift the struggle for Irish independence away from terroristic violence — is recapped in “Bobby Sands: 66 Days.” Veteran documentarian Brendan J. Bryne’s feature does an excellent job contextualizing this famous chapter for viewers not already steeped in modern Irish history. He also accentuates the drama of events to create what many may find a more engrossing (as well as complexly balanced) treatment than Steve McQueen’s 2008 “Hunger,” which had Michael Fassbender as Sands. It should prove a viable niche theatrical release in select territories, with slightly wider home-format exposure to follow.

    Sands was 27 when he died on May 5, 1981 after refusing food for the titular 66 days. He was radicalized by the rise in Northern Ireland sectarian tension and violence during his youth, which had driven his own Catholic family from their home. At age 18 in 1972 he joined the Provisional IRA, getting arrested later that year on a weapons possession charge. The same scenario unfolded not long after his release from prison in 1976. While during his first stint he and other political prisoners were afforded “Special Category Status” allowing them somewhat different treatment from ordinary offenders, that exemption had been eliminated by the time of his 1977 re-entry.

    Republican inmates deployed various tactics to protest that policy change, including refusing to wear prison uniforms and creating grossly unsanitary cell conditions. But these had little desired effect. Once Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, the U.K. government took a hard line of viewing all such activism as “blackmail” demanding “special privileges” for common criminals. It was against such opposition — and, to an extent, the IRA’s own disapproval after a prior such action had failed — that Sands commenced his second, final hunger strike, eventually joined by several others.

    One voice among the rich array of observers that Bryne has assembled here comments early on that Bobby Sands was “the perfect icon,” being a figure of demonstrable passion and sacrifice, yet also a sort of blank slate (due to his youth and largely incarcerated history) onto which almost any qualities or message could be projected. That he was well aware of the martyr role he’d chosen is implicit in the articulate journal excerpts read on the soundtrack by Martin McCann. Even those who knew Sands tend to talk about him less in personal terms than as a sort of conscious symbol.

    In the end, “66 Days” argues, his death not only won most of the contested prisoner rights, but made a significant case for “the power of self-inflicted suffering” as being more effective than violence in serving the cause. (The international-publicity impact was heightened still further when Sands was successfully elected to the British Parliament just weeks before his demise, proving considerable public sympathy lay on his side.)

    Structured as a fatal countdown of days, Bryne’s docu (with much help from Paul Devlin’s inventive editing) manages to sandwich in a lot of diverse, useful errata, from general historical background to pulse-takings of the then disco-crazed popular culture simultaneous to this deadly serious conflict.

    Primary package elements are a wealth of archival footage, and latterday talking-head contributions from various contemporaries, historians, medical experts, et al. “66” also weaves in low-key, wordless reenactment elements, and even a couple impressive animated sequences. Reflecting and further enhancing the film’s complicated agenda is an original score by Edith Progue that runs the gamut from duly disco-influenced music to aptly more somber themes.

    While hardly the first and unlikely to be the last cinematic word on its subject (which was also notably dramatized by Terry George in the 1996 feature “Some Mother’s Son”), this finely crafted docu may well long stand as the most balanced among such treatments, as it respectfully examines Sands’ folk-heroic legacy rather than simply amplifying it.

    Film Review: 'Bobby Sands: 66 Days'

    Reviewed at Hot Docs, May 5, 2016. (Also in Sheffield Doc Fest.) Running time: 105 MIN.


    (Docu—Ireland—UK) A BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Storyville presentation of a Fine Point Films and Cyprus Avenue Films production in association with Northern Ireland Screen. (World sales: Content Media Corp., London.) Produced by Trevor Birney, Brendan J. Byrne. Executive producers, Nick Fraser, Susan Lovell, Justin Binding, Rory Gilmartin, Andrew Reid, Jonathan Ford, Greg Philips, Axel Arno, Mette Hoffmann Meyer.


    Directed by Brendan J. Byrne. Camera (color, HD), David Barker; editor, Paul Devlin; music, Edith Progue; production designer, David Craig; art director, Chris Hunter; animation, Peter Strain, Ryan Kane; sound recordist, Barker; re-recording mixers, Paul Maynes, Aaron O’Neill.


    Fintan O’Toole, Raymond McCord, Denis Sweeney, Richard English, Denis O’Hearn, Michael Biggs, Tim Pat Coogan, Brendan O’Cathaoir, Jack Foster, Tomboy Louden, Danny Morrison, Seanna Walsh, Danny Devenney, Gerard Rooney, Gerry Adams, Richard O’Rawe, Dessie Waterworth, Norman Tebbit, charles Moore, Colm Scullion, Bik McFarlane, Thomas Hennessey, Lawrence McKeown, Dr. Hernan Heyes, Jim Gibney, Owen Carron, Ronnie Close, Father Sean McManus, Sean Donlon, Matthew Murray, Aram Bakshian, Dr. John O’Connell.


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  • 5 New Must-See Documentaries From the 2016 Hot Docs Festival

    5 New Must-See Documentaries From the 2016 Hot Docs Festival

    By David Ehrlich, Steve Greene and Eric Kohn | IndiewireApril 27, 2016 at 12:51PM

    The Toronto non-fiction celebration is a good opportunity to showcase some of the best new documentaries of 2016.
    Operation Avalanche
    "Operation Avalanche"

    READ MORE: Hot Docs 2016 Announces Full Lineup

    Documentaries are flourishing on film and television alike, but few film festivals provide a platform for the art form on the scale of the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival, which opens its 26th edition this week in Toronto. The widely-attended event unites influential figures in the non-fiction filmmaking community with general audiences eager to consume a broad spectrum of new work. This year's edition features a whopping 232 titles from 51 countries. Here are five notable highlights.

    "66 Days: Bobby Sands"

    "66 Days: Bobby Sands"

    Joining Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” as one of the most visceral and comprehensive films ever made about the Troubles, Brendan Byrne’s new documentary begins as an intimate chronicle of Bobby Sands’ fatal hunger strike before widening into a study of colonialism as a war of attrition. Sands — who, in 1981, refused food for 66 days in an effort to force the British government to recognize incarcerated IRA members as political prisoners rather than common criminals — is one of the most famous Irishmen in recent history. And yet, as one person reflects early in the film: “So little is known about Sands’ life that you can fill in the blanks however you want.” While Byrne’s film features talking head interviews with people who knew him personally (one guy played on his football team, another fed him the prison food that he didn’t eat), “66 Days” is less interested in demystifying Sands as a martyr than it is in dissecting how he became one. Using loads of choice archival footage, and even a pinch of animation to depict Sands becoming dislocated from his own body, Byrne conceives of a hunger strike as something akin to a work of art. In doing so, he makes one of his own. —David Ehrlich


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  • Review: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’


    Review: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’

    Hot Docs 2016

    Courtesy of Hot Docs

    Bobby Sands: 66 Days
    (Ireland/UK, 105 min.)
    Dir. Brendan Byrne
    Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)

    It’s a testament to the quality of filmmaking that Bobby Sands: 66 Days comes across neither as a piece of propaganda, a screed, or a dry piece of journalism. Ambitious and often ambivalent about Bobby Sands’ drive for martyrdom, filmmaker Brendan Byrne and his team manage to tie the tale of the famed hunger striker to the greater struggles that were taking place in Northern Ireland, assembling a diverse and loquacious group to tell their sides of the tale.

    The film uses the 66 days of Sands’ terminal fast as the launching board for a greater discussion, tracing events back to the early Seventies when the origin of Northern Ireland’s modern troubles began, all the way through to the entire of Ireland’s early 20th century’s struggles against British rule. So often the narrative of what took place in Northern Ireland has been presented in stark terms, but here Byrne manages to flesh out the sheer complexity of the forces involved, including the reticence of the Republic of Ireland’s government in Dublin to be seen as fostering the behavior of a convicted terrorist. Sands’ actions ended up being both effective and damaging to the Irish revolutionary ideal. By tracing the physiological, psychological and philosophical torments that Sands suffered, the film effectively uses his strike as a touchstone for deeper analysis of this period of history.

    With fine motion graphics, some effective (and overt) recreations and a series of talking-head interviews from a laudably diverse group, Byrne’s 66 Days is an extremely effective take on the history and legacy of Sands, as well as touching upon the universality of the lessons the hunger strike continues to play on so many of us decades later.

    Bobby Sands: 66 Days screens:
    -Tuesday, May 3 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9:00 PM
    -Thursday, May 5 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 6:30 PM
    -Saturday, May 7 at Hart House at 7:00 PM

    Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

    Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

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  • New docs from Rothwell, Byrne head to Hot Docs

    A new documentary from How to Change the World director Jerry Rothwell and Brendan Byrne’s Bobby Sands: 66 Days (pictured) will have their world premieres at next month’s Hot Docs festival.

    The Toronto-set event has revealed 14 more documentaries featured in its Special Presentation program, joining the 15 films announced earlier this month. The section includes a selection of world and international premieres, in addition to stand-out docs from recent international festivals.Rothwell, who screened his Greenpeace documentary at Hot Docs last year, will return with Sour Grapes.

    Co-directed with Reuben Atlas, the doc centers on wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, who deceives the American market with fake vintages valued in the millions. Netflix and ARTE are attached to the film.Brendan Byrne’s Bobby Sands doc, meanwhile, tackles a turning point in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as told through the diary entries of the titular activist, while Darby Wheeler’s Hip-Hop Evolution finds Canadian rapper Shad traveling to the Bronx and Harlem to talk with hip-hop icons including Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.

    Rounding out the world premieres is Requiem for the American Dream helmer Jared P. Scott’s latest entry, The Age of Consequences. The climate change doc examines resource scarcity, mass migration and conflict through the lenses of global stability and national security.

    International premieres headed to Toronto include Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross’ Contemporary Color, Dawn Porter’s Trapped, Roger Ross Williams’ Life, Animated, Stephanie Soechtig’s Under the Gun, Clay Tweel’s Gleason, and Ferne Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh.Remaining titles in the Special Presentations program and the full selection of films at the festival are to be announced on March 22, including the opening night selection. Hot Docs runs from April 28 to May 8.

    Read more: http://realscreen.com/2016/03/15/new-docs-from-rothwell-scott-head-to-hot-docs/#ixzz433pAb0zd

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