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BOBBY SANDS: 66 DAYS

In the spring of 1981 Irish Republican Bobby Sands' 66-day hunger strike brought the attention of the world to his cause. Drawing on an Irish Republican tradition of martyrdom, Sands' emotive, non-violent protest to be classified as a political prisoner became a defining moment in 20th century Irish history. Sands' death after 66 days marked a key turning point in the relationship between Britain and Ireland, and brought a global spotlight to the Northern Irish conflict which eventually triggered international efforts to resolve it. 66 DAYS is a major feature length documentary exploring Sands' remarkable life and death, 35 years on from his ultimate sacrifice. The spine of the film is comprised of Sands' own words, drawn from his hunger strike diary, a unique insight into the man and his beliefs as he embarked on his final journey. Directed by award winning filmmaker Brendan J Byrne and produced by Trevor Birney of Fine Point Films, this landmark non-fiction feature film will have its world premiere at a major international film festival in 2016.

 
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ELIÁN

ELIÁN recounts the story of a Cuban boy named Elián González who, on Thanksgiving Day in 1999, was found floating on an inner tube in the Florida Straits, an event that set in motion a bitter custody battle between Elián’s Cuban father and US relatives. Set to the backdrop of a tense and acrimonious relationship between the US and Cuba, the documentary  features a wealth of contemporary news archive and gives unprecedented access to key players in the saga, including an exclusive interview with the boy himself, now a 23-year old man. A story of family and the challenges of reconciliation, the documentary uses one boy’s remarkable journey to plot the path to rapprochement between Cuba and the US, and is underscored by a deeply moving personal and political commentary. 

Produced for CNN Films, Content Media, Irish Film Board and Northern Ireland Screen

ELIÁN premieres at Tribeca Film Festival 2017: https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/elin-2017

 
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Stasi FC

Amidst the tyranny that shaped life in the German Democratic Republic, football may not have been at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but for many it provided 90 minutes of escape from the oppression and hardships of the Soviet regime. But like every other facet of life in East Germany, football was not immune to the vice-like grip of the Stasi. When the head of the GDR’s infamous secret police agency turned his attentions to football, he set in motion a dark and bizarre chain of events.

STASI FC uses the compelling stories of what was happening in and around the football stadiums of East Germany to reflect the broader story of what life was like beyond their gates. Bookended with the construction and demolition of the Berlin wall, the film will combine dramatic reconstruction and archive with candid testimony from former players, officials and supporters. Access to a wealth of material from the Stasi Records Agency will underpin a tale of double lives, crooked deals and a dubious death. This is the story of what happened when an ugly regime got its hands on the beautiful game.

 
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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

The film follows documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney as he examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church system through the story of four deaf men — Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn and Arthur Budzinski — who set out to expose the priest who abused them during the mid-1960s. Each of the men brought forth the first known case of public protest against clerical sex abuse, which later led to the sex scandal case known as the Lawrence Murphy case. Through their case the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.

The film premiered on September 9, 2012 at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. 

 
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Ceasefire Massacre

New Jersey, June 18, 1994. Giants Stadium is awash with green as Irish football fans arrive to watch Ireland's opening World Cup match against the mighty Italy. The sense of optimism is infectious. The Celtic Tiger is in its infancy. Bill Clinton's decision a few months earlier to grant a visa to Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams has added momentum to an embryonic peace process. Jack Charlton's team walks onto the pitch before 75,000 fervent spectators who've travelled from across the globe for this game.

Amongst the fans is Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds who is sitting with leading Irish-American businessmen who've been working behind-the-scenes to end the 25-year-old conflict in Northern Ireland. The electrifying mood is shared by the supporters watching the match in the Heights Bar, a tiny pub in the tiny Northern Irish village of Loughinisland, 24 miles south of Belfast. At the half, the Irish have taken a surprising 1-0.

Shortly after the second half begins, two masked gunmen belonging to a Protestant terror group burst into the Heights Bar. Thirty rounds are fired and six innocent men watching a soccer match were killed. Ceasefire Massacre reveals how the jubilation felt inside Giants Stadium juxtaposed against the horrors of what happened in the Heights Bar, encapsulated the mood of the time. The British government said it would hunt down the killers and ensure they were brought to justice. However, 20 years later, the relatives of those that died believe the British government has questions to answer about its own role in the massacre. In fact, they now believe the British helped the perpetrators and ensured they were never caught. The question remains: Why?

Directed by Alex Gibney.

Broadcast May 2014 as part of ESPN Film’s 30 For 30.