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Review: The Pipe

Gavin Burke -

And another great Irish documentary hits the cinemas. Joining this year's His & Hers and Pyjama Girls, The Pipe, a deserved winner at the Galway Film Fleadh, rounds off a successful year for the documentary and will certainly angry up the blood. Not that it needs to get any angrier these days. It's tough to write up a documentary like this without letting (a) a brief round up of the situation that's already been documented ad infinitum in the press and (b) letting personal opinions colour the review, but I'll do my best.

The Pipe kicks off with a statement that Shell have 'refused' to participate in the documentary before launching into the back story of the hubbub: when a gas field was discovered off the west coast of Ireland in 1996, Shell moved fast and proposed placing an offshore pipeline that would run through the community of Rossport to the refinery at Bellanaboy. The residents – including farmers, teachers, priests and fisherman, all of whom get their say here – felt that the pipe was dangerously close to their homes and businesses, putting both at risk. Shell advanced with their plans regardless and all hell broke loose, resulting in some arrests (The Rossport 5) and some bloody noses. (Damn. I've already failed in one aspect of this review).

Farmer Willie Corduff, one of a small number O'Domhnaill focuses his camera on instead of a wide scope of interviews, points out that the bog the pipe was supposed to be laid in, just isn't safe enough (demonstrating said lack of safety with his foot), and if the sand in the bay is protected by the EU, why is Shell - backed up by the government, the police, the navy and a private security firm - are allowed to do as they please? Big business, Willie – that's why (Damn. Strike two).

In one of the documentaries most memorable sequences, and one that captures the whole struggle, fisherman Pat O'Donnell, in his tiny boat, faces off against the monstrosity that is The Solitaire, a massive pipe-laying ship. Another memorable scene sees baton-swinging Guards descend on unarmed protestors while their superintendent bellows, "We will not be bullied" via a bullhorn. Oh, the irony.

Dipping in and out of the lives of those affected and the S2S meetings that tear the community apart, O'Domhnaill's documentary is only missing the voice of Shell and that stops it just short of being a definitive commentary on the subject. Stirring stuff.

Review by Gavin Burke