Ireland, 2010, 83 min
The discovery in 1996 of a vast natural gas deposit off Ireland’s west coast led global energy giant Shell to begin laying a high-pressure pipeline across the seabed and onto shore, where it would terminate at a refinery near the small town of Rossport. Shell did not ask Rossport’s farmers and fishermen if it could pass its pipeline beside their houses and through the community’s pristine commonage and coastline; according to resident Willie Corduff, it simply informed them of the fact. “They tried to bully us, and it didn’t work.” In 2005, the community made international headlines when Corduff and four others were jailed for blocking construction of Shell’s pipeline. Thousands rallied behind the Rossport Five. “And that,” says Corduff, “is when it all began.” Risteard Ó Domhnaill’s reflective and rousing documentary incorporates archival footage from those days but begins its own chronicle a year later, during a violent nighttime clash between police and locals blockading the construction site after a government go-ahead to Shell. What follows is an intimate, stirring and utterly timely portrait of a community straining under a titanic battle—for what it considers its very survival—against a Goliath of money power and a largely compliant state. Ó Domhnaill’s keen-eyed camera stays close to the lush countryside and a handful of courageous, colorful players in the grassroots effort. Shell, meanwhile, which refused to participate in the film, remains a shadowy onscreen conglomeration of trespassing land surveyors, men with binoculars, locals in hardhats tempted by short-term jobs and a hulking, ominous ship named Solitaire.
Presented in association with San Francisco Irish Film Festival. GGA Documentary Feature Contender.