Here in Ireland there has been a huge furore over the past 4+ years about the building of a gas pipeline from the Corrib Gasfield off the west coast of Co. Mayo to nine miles inland. The local people have been divided by the prospect of this pipeline. The Shell Oil company (who have a less than stellar record internationally) are behind the pipeline. They have the support of the Irish government to a large degree. The Pipe, chronicles the story of the struggle of the local people with each other, with shell and with the authorities who refuse to listen to their concerns.
Shot by Richie O'Domhnaill 'The Pipe' is a documentary telling the story from the perspective of the people of Rossport (the village/community nearest to the proposed route of the pipeline) Co Mayo and their continued struggle for their rights and their voices to be recognised in the face of major industry and a government and police force that seem hell bent on accommodating Shell at every turn. The film won the best documentary prize at the Galway Film Fleadh (festival) in Ireland and has played to rave reviews and standing ovations at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.
In the years since this controversy began there have been protests, arrests, hunger strikes, countless angry confrontations between the police and the protestors, there have been allegations of criminal damage, of trespassing and of assault on both sides. The film captures much of this and interviews some of the main protagonists (although Shell refused to cooperate) including members of the 'Rossport 5', group of locals who went to jail for their beliefs that the pipeline should not be built. These people are local farmers, fishermen and schoolteachers who are not content to let others come in and ride roughshod over their livelihoods and way of life. To many they are heroes, to others they are people stuck in their ways and preventing progress. As a story it is a compelling one and it has divided not only the local community, but also much of Ireland.
One of the major characters of the film is local crab fisherman Pat 'the chief' O'Donnell who fears the pipe will destroy not only the local bay but also his livelihood and tear his family apart by forcing his sons to leave home for work.
Local farmer Willie Corduff is one of the 'Rossport 5'. He and his family have seen their lives turned upside down in their attempt to keep the high pressure raw gas pipeline from running through their farm and community.
One of the key moments in the film comes when the 'Solitaire' the biggest pipelaying vessel in the world enters the bay to begin work. 'The Chief' goes out in his small fishing vessel to protect his crab fishing zone and his crab fishing pots and a true David and Goliath standoff ensues. Flanked by Police and Naval vessels you are left wondering in this teaser as to who is in the right and who has the power. It is a powerful piece of filmmaking.
Produced by Scannain Inbhear Teoranta with Riverside Television, TG4 and Underground Films; 'The Pipe' is a very relevant story in these times when oil companies are failing in their responsibilities to the communities in which they are located all over the world. The opening of the film in Toronto coincided with the tragic explosion of the gas pipeline in San Bruno California and seemed to be a telling sign of what happens when the fears expressed in the film are realised.
If this film reaches a festival or theater near you be sure to go and see it. below are some links to a review from Variety of the film and also to an interview with director Richie O'Domhnaill on Canada's CBC News.