Movie review

Bloody Sunday

This British-Irish film is a gripping recreation of the January 30, 1972, massacre by the British Army of 13 unarmed civil rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, working together with local groups, had called the Sunday march to protest against internment without trial, which had been introduced by the British government the previous summer. That Sunday, 10,000 marchers found themselves encircled by massive military force. The film depicts the mounting tension and confusion on all sides and shows how, with the combination of a population simmering under centuries of oppression and military occupation, and a hated and frightened occupying army, things can get out of hand and lead to disaster.

The film focuses on Ivan Cooper (played by James Nesbitt, who appeared in the wonderful film, Waking Ned Devine), a Protestant member of Parliament from Derry who was a local leader of the nonviolent movement against British occupation. By focusing on Cooper, writer-director Paul Greengrass makes clear that the Northern Ireland conflict is not and was not fundamentally about religion, but about class and national oppression.

If the film has any model, it is the 1960s masterpiece, The Battle of Algiers, the film’s producer, Mark Redhead, says. But while that movie shows an ultimately victorious struggle for national liberation, Bloody Sunday depicts a terrible defeat. Cooper says bitterly, following the massacre, it killed the nonviolent movement in Northern Ireland. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the history of the modern Irish troubles, the filmmakers say, catapulting the conflict into a civil war, driving many young men into the ranks of the IRA and fuelling a decades-long cycle of violence.

Nevertheless, the filmmakers say Bloody Sunday is ‘a war film about the struggle for peace.’ Filmed in a graphic on-the-street style, using many non-professional actors with direct ties to the actual events, Bloody Sunday gives vivid life to a story that resonates today, in the West Bank and in our own country, too. It is an excellent, powerful film.

The film’s website,, contains a wealth of information. A famous poem by Thomas Kinsella about Bloody Sunday, ‘Butcher’s Dozen’ is on the web at

– Susan Webb


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.