Friday, June 30, 2006


I saw The Wind That Shakes The Barley last night with N and R. This is a Must-See. In the UK we get very little history of Ireland: the potato famine is mentioned, plus the Troubles, but that's about it. It was good therefore to have fleshed out some history from the early 20th C. However, this film was not really about Ireland at all.

This was a film about Occupation, and the Occupied. It is completely timely, with viscious and brutal occupations in Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan continuing with very little international criticism. The film shows the frightening brutality of the soldiers (first British, and then - tragically - Free State Irish) against those people who are fighting back.

The cinematography is beautiful, and the violence all the more shocking for its muted character: the "rape" scene in which Siobhan's hair is cut off was very powerful, for it manages to capture much more than the expected sexual violence alone. The destruction of the bond between the resistance fighters is painful to watch, with friend and family turning against each other in a shocking echo of the former actions of the British. Even the same prison cells are used to house the captives.

The "terrorists" of course are completely ordinary people, driven sometimes regretfully towards violence in defence of justice and freedom. The acts of the occupying forces clearly create terror in the occupied people: who are the terrorists?

The wanton destruction, the personal violence, the dehumanisation of the occupied people is a feature of occupation. Recent events in Haditha, Gaza, and Kabul are not one-off acts of mad-dog soldiers, but part and parcel of military strategy in occupied countries. Many of these recent tactics were devised by the British army in Ireland during the occupation, then transferred to US and Israeli forces in the decades since. Israel now exports its urban combat "skills" to oppressive regimes around the world.

To understand life in an occupied land, and the deep difficulties - emotional and physical - which such an existance produces, watch ...Barley.


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