Film Reviews

Review: ‘I, Dolours’

Hot Docs 2018


I, Dolours
(Ireland, 82 minutes)
Dir: Maurice Sweeney
Programme: International Spectrum. (World Premiere)

In 2010, former Irish Republican Army member Dolours Price gave a series of interviews, under the agreement that they could only be released after her death. Most famous for her involvement in the bombing of London’s Old Bailey in 1973, an attack which injured hundreds of people and killed one, Dolours’ story is expanded upon in Maurice Sweeney’s documentary, where reenactments illustrate her words as she details her childhood, radical experiences, incarceration, and beyond.

With such controversial subject matter, I, Dolours has all the appeal of being let in on a secret. Intimately, we gain access to forbidden knowledge, the indulgence of gossip being grounded by the severity of real events. Dolours is an engaging speaker, and her passion comes through as she recounts her upbringing within a staunchly republican family, as well as her determination and commitment to fight for the rights of her people.

But Sweeney’s doc takes an impartial perspective. The film allows Dolours to discuss her life as she sees it. We hear what drove her to acts of terrorism, and how she could justify violence, rationalizing her radicalism. We also watch, with great sympathy, as she is put into prison, taking on a 200-day hunger strike, which is extended by force-feeding. Simultaneously, we receive the facts of the violence she participated in, especially the “disappearing” of other IRA members deemed to be traitors or informers. In particular is the killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten. Archival footage of her bewildered children is horrifying to contemplate especially after hearing Dolours’ description of personally driving the condemned woman to the place where she would be executed.

There is discomfort in this whiplash of perspectives. In showing both sides bluntly, I, Dolours is able to depict “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland as an incredibly complex set of issues. The film shows understanding and compassion towards Dolours’ republicanism, and never portrays Britain as faultless in the conflict. It equally shows the violence of the IRA (towards innocent people, towards their own people), and does not allow these acts to be justified by the greater struggle for Irish independence. In this way, I, Dolours is able to handle a loaded issue with respect, treating its source with dignity but without falling into reverence, exploring the history without accepting it.

I Dolours screens:
-Sat, Apr. 28 at 6:00 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Sun, Apr. 29 at 1:00 PM Isabel Bader
-Sun, May 6 at 8:15 PM at TIFF Lightbox

Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!