A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Sinéad O’Shea
Sinéad O’Shea created this documentary over five years. Majella O’Donnell is a mother living in the Creggan estate in Derry. Her husband is in jail. She has two sons, the elder, Philly, is a drug dealer and user. Majella co-operates with the local vigilantes and delivers her son to them to be shot. He is not shot but he is scared out of his wits and is haunted by the experience. It is in that state that he is first filmed.
The documentary describes a family many years after the Good Friday agreement with nothing to lift them out of poverty, violence, drug and aclohol abuse. The optimistic words of Bill Clinton in a piece of news reel footage ring hollow. In reality education and schooling are not seen as of any benefit in this family.
The opening sequence is chilling. The younger son, Kevin Barry, aged about twelve shows off his prized possessions. These are not toys or his football boots. They are a crow bar, a saw and wire clippers and he explains with a disturbing accuracy how he would use them on humans. His elder brother is not a positive role model as he is damaged by his former drug habit, his mock shooting and his current dependency on alcohol and tobacco. He is rarely seen without a can of beer or a cigarette in his hand. There is little in the daily routine and several times O’Shea shows Majella peelings spuds standing over a deep fat fryer. It is not an inspiring image.
Notwithstanding Kevin Barry’s unsetlling collection of weapons, Majella has a great deal of admiration for him and thinks he will be alright. However, by the end of the film it is difficult to see what his future can be other than one of violence. He worryingly expresses a desire to return to the world of the Troubles so that there would be something happening even though he was born long after the Troubles were over. It is difficult to see where are the positive hopes for the future. The local community centre, which reassuringly runs bingo session, gives some hope and is a positive force but doubts are created when one of the men in charge states “You are always going to get bad apples. But the community will deal with them themselves.” No mention of the police is made.
This is a deeply disturbing portrait of a community in a nationalist enclave of deprivation. They are the end result of the Troubles of the past and the eternal bickering of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party at Stormont since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. No one in the documentary gives any indication how the situation can be improved. O’Shea has created a documentery which shows how far one family is from any foundation from which their lives can be enriched. They are probably not unique. It is a brave film and it shows without any sentiment where the sectarian divide in Derry has left one family.