Pat Stack

Hunger

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Director: Steve McQueen; Release date: out now

Hunger is a remarkable, challenging account of the infamous H blocks of Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland, the events leading up to the hunger strike and death of Irish Republican Bobby Sands.

However, it is not the hunger strike equivalent to In the Name of the Father. That film about the Guildford Four stuck to pretty standard film drama techniques.

J is for Justice

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Bob Dylan's song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" begins with words that are the cornerstone of justification for the justice system in model capitalist democracies.

"In the courtroom of honour, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom."

The system, it is argued, is just, fair and equitable, and everybody is treated equally, tried by their peers having been given a fair hearing.

B is for Bolshevik

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When I was a young man way back in the days when Blair was a much loved performer and Brown was noted for his twin ambitions to be leader of the Labour Party and to drink Westminster dry (I speak of course of Lionel and George), the term "Bolshy" was a common one.

Bolshy tended to mean anyone who might stir up trouble, stand up for themselves or rebel against the rules. Its use went way beyond the obviously political, and yet its roots were entirely political. It had become a British abbreviation of the word Bolshevik, the name of the party that had led the workers to revolution in Russia in 1917.

The word itself sounded romantic and inspiring, or dark and dangerous, but was in fact simply the Russian word for majority.

Don't Inhale

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Review of 'Thank You For Smoking', director Jason Reitman

Thank You for Smoking is a very funny film that is not in the main about smoking. Rather it is a film about spin - with smoking being just about the most difficult product of all to spin.

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the chief executive of the Academy of Tobacco Studies. His job is to defend cigarettes against the anti-smoking lobby, and to challenge and confound the overwhelming evidence that smoking kills. This apparently academic body is, of course, funded by the tobacco industry.

Making Waves

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Review of 'The Making of Rocky Road', director Paul Duane and 'Rocky Road to Dublin', director Peter Lennon

In 1968 the world appeared to have been turned upside down. The students and then the workers of Paris brought France to near revolution. The anti Vietnam War movement raged throughout the United States, radicalising students throughout the Western world, including Britain. Blacks in the US were fighting back against their oppression, people in Czechoslovakia were in revolt, and in Northern Ireland a civil rights movement was set to turn the entire state on its head.

Interview of the Month: Reliving the War in an Irish Town

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Journalist and playwright Richard Norton Taylor tells Pat Stack about his dramatisation of the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

On the face of it, inquiries seem unlikely settings for dramas, but they've worked very well for you. What drew you to the idea?

Nicholas Kent, a committed director at the Tricycle theatre, first had the idea when I was covering the Scott arms to Iraq inquiry. Writing a few hundred words one day, and then a few hundred more a couple of days later, was getting disjointed. We thought we'd put it all together into one package with an audience, and it would lead to a much greater understanding of the whole thing.

What attracted you to the Bloody Sunday inquiry?

Northern Ireland: A Movement Going Nowhere Fast

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The IRA's recent withdrawal of their offer to put their arms 'beyond use' might have been expected to cause widespread panic about the future of the peace process. Yet after some initial alarm, there is a feeling of 'business as usual' or rather a lack of business.

All the initial enthusiasm for the peace process has waned and been replaced by a frustrating impasse. There is no doubt that the various shades of Ulster Unionists, all too often assisted by the acquiescence of the British government, have been mainly responsible for this.

David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party, while apparently in favour of the process, continually placed obstacles and barriers to progress. As Sinn Fein and the IRA either conformed or attempted to compromise in the face of their intransigence, Trimble kept inventing new barriers and demands.

Too Smart By Half

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Review of 'Oh, Play That Thing' by Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Cape £16.99

If the first part of this trilogy, A Star called Henry, was the finest book Roddy Doyle has written to date, then Oh, Play That Thing is surely the bravest, and a worthy follow up. Doyle's early successes, like The Commitments, The Van and The Snapper, were brilliant at capturing the world around him. The Dublin he grew up in, taught and lived in, was brought to life on every page. He was brilliant at observing the little quirks of everyday living and turning them into wonderfully told stories.

The Essence of Being Free

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Review of 'Inside I'm Dancing', director Damien O'Donnell

I must admit, when I first heard about this film, I shuddered and thought no way do I want to see it. Being disabled, my experience is that films about disability rarely get it right - they are either mawkishly sentimental, or overly preachy and patronising. For most disabled people their life is their life. There seems nothing brave or extraordinary about how it's lived - it just is. Film-makers rarely catch this or even understand it, partly of course because life as it is, ordinary and humdrum, does not make for riveting cinema.

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