Belfast Film Festival and Feile an Phobail last week hosted a packed to capacity night in the Omniplex, Kennedy Centre, for the home-town premiere of Bobby Sands: 66 Days. 

The premiere was followed by 2 sold out Feile preview screenings and a record-breaking first weekend of attendances in Irish cinemas. Directed by local filmmaker, Brendan J Byrne, the film explores the life and death of Bobby Sands.

Having screened in the prestigious Hotdocs (Toronto) and Sheffield Docfest, the documentary has this week recorded the Republic’s highest opening weekend returns for an Irish-made doc.  This makes it the second highest documentary opening of all-time in the Republic, after Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11.  In the north, it came fifth in the box office chart for opening weekends, with more cinema-goers watching the documentary than went to both Star Trek and Ghostbusters.

Written and directed by Byrne, Bobby Sands: 66 Days is based around extracts from the late republican’s prison diaries, which are performed in the film by Belfast actor Martin McCann.  27-year-old Sands, died after 66 days on hunger strike in the H Blocks in May 1981.

The film utilises archive news footage, animation, interviews and dramatic reconstruction to depict Sands’s incarceration and set his actions within a wider political and historical context.

“Brendan Byrne and Trevor Birney have made a really fascinating documentary, this is a powerful, must-see film about a critical moment in our recent history.”  Michele Devlin, Belfast Film Festival Director.