REVIEW: THE PIPE
DIRECTED BY RISTEARD O’DOMHNAILL.
Opens December 3, IFI and The Lighthouse Cinema
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“An oil company vs. ordinary people.” This tagline invokes images of pretty actresses slumming it in denim and taking down large corporations with nothing but pure moxy as the Academy of Motion Pictures has a mass orgasm. But thankfully this is the only cliché present in Risteard O’Domhnaill’s thoroughly compelling film about Rossport’s Shell to Sea campaign.
Spanning over a decade, The Pipe begins with Winning Steak-standard graphics illustrating the layout of the Mayo village and the proposed pipeline. This animation suggests an amateurish technique, but as these disappear in favour of stunning views and aerial shots of this coast-side community, O’Domhnaill’s talent is clear. And as it’s revealed that Shell Oil are continuing with the construction, not only ignoring the community’s safety concerns about the pipeline but E.U regulations, a compelling David vs. Goliath battle ensues.
But the campaign is far from perfect. The most interesting segments of the film depict the divisions among the protesters themselves as they disagree over the best course of action. Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell’s determination to protect his fishing territory is inspiring as he doggedly faces down Shell’s huge ships and is repeatedly arrested only to return the next day. However, the extreme actions of the aggressively passionate, hunger-striking Maura Harrington cause friction as she intimidates and isolate those around her. Caught in the middle are the local Gardaí, who are put in the difficult position of physically facing down their neighbors. As the camera work jostles as the protesters are shoved and hit by the arresting officials, the audience gets an immediate insight into the experience.
However, here a problem arises. Marketed as a documentary, The Pipe interviews neither Gardaí nor Shell Oil representatives, rendering it completely unbalanced. But as a feature film, The Pipe is not only a brilliantly edited and engaging character-driven narrative, but a disturbing and timely depiction of the constant failings of our justice system.