The Film “Hunger,” Hunger Strikers, and Street Names

I was bedridden sick for about a week and after seeing “Prometheus” and Michael Fassbender’s captivating performance, I decided to make use of my downtime and check out some of his movies that I hadn’t seen, including “Shame,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Fish Tank,” and “Hunger.”  They are all spectacular films and he’s a terrific actor. “Hunger,” however, warrants special attention. It’s the true story of the plight of IRA political prisoners with special emphasis on Bobby Sands, a key prison leader. The 2008 film chronicles the political prisoners’ strategies to remain defiant in order to obtain their status as “political prisoners” instead of “criminals” while behind bars which included a “no wash” strike and ultimately led to a prolonged hunger strike that resulted in Bobby Sands’ death as well as  9 others in 1981.  The duration of his hunger strike lasted 66 days. The hunger strike, among other political events in the 80s, facilitated the image that Margaret Thatcher was a ruthless and cold-hearted British premier.

The Palestinian hunger strikers, many of whom have been held for years with any formal charge and certainly without any trial, have used this last ditch effort to protest their unjust captivity, what Israeli authorities called “administrative detention” (a phrase that could very well have been derived from Orwell’s 1984).  While few have actually obtained their freedom from such a courageous act of protest, they have nonetheless cast the same shadow on the Israeli occupation authorities as the 1981 Irish hunger strikers cast on Margarate Thatcher premiership – one of cold-heartedness and ruthlessness.

For me to discuss Irish hunger strikers in 1981 and present-day Palestinian hunger strikers in the same post is not without merit. Not only is the obvious strategy of the hunger strike shared, judging from this mural, there is just cause for talking about the two peoples in the same post.

As for Bobby Sands’ legacy, after the revolution in Iran, in order to thumb its nose at the British, the revolutionary government renamed the street on which the British embassy is located to Bobby Sands Street (see image below). To avoid using such an address on its letterhead or other documents, the embassy changed its main entrance to the other side of the building utilizing Ferdowsi Street. As far as I know, the street is still named after Bobby Sands.  In a historical twist, there is now a street in Rome, Italy, named after Neda Agha Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose tramatic death was captured on video in the aftermath of Iran’s highly disputed 2009 presidential elections.

See the trailer to the remarkable film here.

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