A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot

Christopher Owens does not have a high regard for a film shown @ Queens Film Theatre, Belfast on 14th September 2018.

Back in the QFT to watch a film five years in the making.

A Mother Brings... tells the story of the O'Donnell family in Baldrick Crescent in Derry. A son, Philly, has found himself in trouble with local paramilitaries over anti-social behaviour (it's never established who exactly, but there are hints that it's the Real IRA) and, despite negotiations with ex Provos turned community workers like Hugh Brady, ends up being kneecapped. The film charts a journey of five years as the filmmaker attempts to explore this world, one that should have disappeared after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The film itself is nothing more than RTE/Southern style snobbery and finger pointing.

Firstly, there is little to no attempt to introduce substantial context into the mix, just references to people feeling disillusioned over the Agreement and the antipathy still held towards the cops. A proper examination of such a subject will point out that, due to the history of the nationalist population not being well served by the state or the forces of law and order, nationalist areas turned inwards, sorting out issues themselves and creating a kind of alternative economy (we all know someone who can "get you that cheaper"). It's crucial to keep this in consideration, because it is what keeping nationalists away from the police. Without it, viewers with little to no knowledge will simply think "they're mad bastards up there" (further emphasised by the title. Those with longer memories will recall the Dispatch programme which contained a similar scenario).

Secondly, there's an awful lot of ambiguity that's never addressed head on. After his shooting, Philly is exiled to Belfast (where he stays for a few months). Later, the filmmaker informs us that there was trouble, and he had to move back to Derry. Why? It's never explained. Then there are long periods where the family aren't in the film (according to director Sinead O'Shea, they broke off contact for about three years) and, when they do appear again, Philly seems adamant not to talk to the camera. Why? It's never explained.

There are allegations throughout that the paramilitaries are taxing drug dealers throughout the city, despite declaring a war on them. These comments stem from members of the O'Donnell family, yet the filmmaker does not take the time to investigate the allegations, even though she interviews at least one person involved with armed groups.

Finally, the film displays a show of strength by (presumably) the Real IRA. It's obviously staged for the cameras, and lacks the (dare I say) gravitas that previous shows of strength (like Carrickmore 1979) display. There's also little to no commentary from the filmmakers, as if they are mesmerised by the sight of balaclavas and guns.

Like I, Dolours, there are a lot of areas left unexplored: how much of a role do the PSNI play with the dissidents? What constitutes anti-social behaviour in the minds of the people who carry it out (at one point, Philly admits "...acting the ass..." but denies that he did anything substantial to warrant a beating)? Is there a connection between the high suicide rate in this country and punishment beatings? Do community workers do more harm than good when attempting to broker deals between the accused and the armed groups?

What it does do, to it's credit, is capture the disillusionment people in working class areas (both Catholic and Protestant) felt about the Good Friday Agreement. Left behind on crumbling estates with no jobs, some actually welcome a return of the Troubles!

But if you have spent any time in working class areas over the last ten years, you'd know this already.

➽ Christopher Owens reviews for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.
Follow Christopher Owens on Twitter @MrOwens212

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

3 comments to ''A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot"

  1. There is a presidential election on...good time to release this....Cahill resurfaced to remind everyone how brutally she was assaulted and demanded that Mary Lou get down on her knees and beg her forgiveness...Stack came off with something also.....

  2. Niall,

    SF don't feature at all, although I'm assuming you're looking at it in the sense that Southerners don't want "that sort of thing" infecting the streets and corridors of government. In which case, it could score a goal or two against SF!

  3. I thought the questions "Is there a connection between the high suicide rate in this country and punishment beatings?" and "Do community workers do more harm than good when attempting to broker deals between the accused and the armed groups?" were answered, or about as well as could be given the circumstances, the answers being, "Yes, obviously" and "Yes, the brokers are basically the same people as the 'hoods with guns' and are part of the problem".


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