Review: ‘Bobby Sands: 66 Days’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

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


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


Jason Gorber is a film journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the Managing Editor/Chief Critic at and a regular contributor for POV Magazine, and CBC Radio. His has written for Slashfilm, Esquire, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Screen Anarchy, HighDefDigest, Birth.Movies.Death, IndieWire and more. He has appeared on CTV NewsChannel, CP24, and many other broadcasters. He has been a jury member at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival, RiverRun Film Festival, TIFF Canada's Top 10, Reel Asian and Fantasia's New Flesh Award. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years.

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