Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival-2011
In another documentary that takes the familiar David versus Goliath theme, the Irish entry “The Pipe” looks at the plight of the citizens of the small Irish enclave of Rossport versus Shell E & P Ireland. Shell wishes to lay the huge Corrib Gas Pipeline through the picturesque community but the locals fights back.
The Pipe states that Shell refused to participate in the making of this film. The fact that an energy giant refused to offer their side doesn’t come as a big surprise. Besides the film Crude, few of the community versus energy giant (e.g. On Coal River) docupics have included participation from the Goliath.
The Pipe’s director Risteard O'Domhnaill quickly sets the mood and location by offering glorious sweeping vistas, seascapes and verdant shots of the local region. He captures the local fisherman catching crabs, and others walking their dogs. All things that one would expect people in the local community to take part in.
The Pipe quickly slides into a series of conflicts that that locals initiate against the energy giant. The film captures the protests that have a grass roots feel with sit ins, vocal demonstrations, and town meetings. Much of the initial conflict pits the locals versus the town police, and then later shifts to infighting as the village residents argue about the best way to attack the energy giant.
The protests include the notable 2005 arrest of “The Rossport Five” who made international news and served as the spark for the base of the continuing flight against Shell. Domhnaill follows one of the Rossport Five, fisherman Willie Corduff who remains firm in the fight against the pipeline construction.
Although the film creates a compelling story, it suffers somewhat from repetition and fails to fully address certain local issues. The film skims over the involvement of local and governments and only focus on the battles between the police and the residents. Other “oil documentaries” such as “Crude” create more complexity by delving into the various layers in a big oil versus local community story.
Despite some of the shortcomings the film offers high production values and colorful locals, and enough conflict to fill the a pipeline. The film’s energy picks up some of the slack but not enough to raise it to the standards of other docufilms of this genre.