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The Pipe - Movie Review of The Pipe - 2010

Jennifer Merin -

An Irish Community Stands Up To Shell

The discovery of a huge and untapped cache of natural gas off the coast of County Mayo seemed a gold mine to Shell Oil, which acquired rights to extract the resource and planned to move it under high pressure by pipe to an inland refinery. The energy behemoth failed to realize, however, that local folk, particularly residents of coastal Rossport, would deem the plan unacceptable because it would disrupt their way of life, endanger the environment and prevent them from supporting themselves by fishing and farming, as their forebears had for generations. Rossport said no and geared up to halt installation of the pipe.

Standing Up To Goliath

As does any small town, Rossport has its personalities, and filmmaker Risteard Ó Domhnaill follows several irresistible characters who display fierce determination in resisting Shell's plan and swaying some community members who lose patience with the protest or are co-opted by Shell's offer to compensate them. Fisherman Pat O'Donnell sets his vessel and crab pots dangerously close to the huge pipe-laying ship, the Solitaire, that Shell has stationed offshore and refuses to move. As local police and Irish maritime officials -- men who've been his friends for life -- haul O'Donnell off to jail and impound his boat, he demands to no avail that they protect his legal rights instead. He berates other fishermen who've agreed to steer clear of the pipe construction for a payment of 20,000 Euros -- a lot of cash for working folk, but hardly enough to replace the wages they'll lose over the long term. Outspoken and feisty school teacher Maura Harrington goes on a hunger strike which she refuses to break until the Solitaire leaves the bay. After getting a court order preventing Shell from surveying public land, one farmer personally confronts Shell's agents, who blithely ignore her and the court order. She goes back to court to stop them. Others appeal to the European Union and environmental protection agencies to stop construction of the pipe.

A Community Torn Apart

As the battle progresses over a period of several years, local clergy and even the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, are caught up in the political fray. Community spirit is torn asunder when local police repeatedly use their clubs to disband the non-violent demonstrators who are, in actuality, their childhood friends and neighbors. Nobody who lives in Rossport and its immediate environs wants the pipe to be installed, but the violence of the confrontations makes some citizens pull back because they are afraid one or more people will be seriously injured or killed. Protest leaders persist in risking their personal safety, comfort and property to stop Shell. The confrontations at demonstrations and town meetings are harrowing, and the rift in community spirit is heartbreaking.

Filmmaking Style

The Pipe

is an observational documentary that periodically uses explanatory


. The filmmaker doesn't appear as a character, nor does he editorialize. Yet, it's easy to tell that he supports local folk.

Guided by cinematography that captures the wildly majestic beauty of the landscape and sea, you, too, will support the characters who love their unspoiled environment and way of life. Your sentiments will flow for the Rossport citizens.

Effective editing streamlines the presentation of a long, politically complex and sometimes repetitive series of incidents, and boosts the sense of tension as crucial deadlines approach. The film has a down-to-the-wire denouement -- but no spoilers here. You'll have to see The Pipe and/or research news reports to find out what happens in the end, and to update this real life Rossport vs. Goliath story.

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Film Details:

  • Title: The Pipe - 2010
  • Director: Risteard Ó Domhnaill
  • Premiere Date: March, 2010
  • Running Time: 83 mins.
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents for some language, voilence.
  • Location: Rossport, County Mayo, Ireland
  • Language: English
  • Production Country: Ireland
  • Production Company: Underground Film Warehouse Studios
  • Official Website
  • Trailer
Posted Date: 
23 March 2011