Ireland is known for its rich culture and many historical landmarks. Most of Ireland’s history is marked by the struggle against invaders and civil conflicts, which were at the root of the violence in the country. But deep inside, the Irish people have an innate love for their country and for their heritage. One of the historical events that led to the hatred of the British’s presence in Northern Ireland was the Bloody Sunday march. Released in 2002, the movie Bloody Sunday drew much attention as it strived to reconstruct the event.

On January 30th, 1972, there was a march organized as part of a civil rights movement in which members of the Irish community came together to protest against the injustice of internment, where the government forces at the time could imprison suspects without trial. This policy was introduced after four British soldiers were killed in 1971, part of “The Troubles”. The march was supposed to be very peaceful and follow a designated root so that those involved could state their own opinion without getting violent or causing problems to the residents of Londonderry. The “Bloody Sunday” march was organized by NICRA, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Although the details of what took place that day remain debatable and controversial, many of the basic facts are not in dispute. The demonstration was held in Derry County. About 10,000 people, including men, women, and children gathered for a peaceful walk to Guildhall Square in the center of the city, where there was supposed to be a rally afterward. Prior to the march, the Stormont Parliament had banned all protests due to all the troubles within the regions. Thus, the march itself was illegal. In an action to set an example to the Northern Irish to obey law and order, the British paratroopers had orders to move in with a goal to arrest as many of the march attendants as possible. However, the plan turned out to be unsuccessful. The paratroopers opened fire and after twenty five minutes of shooting, thirteen civil right marchers were shot dead. That Sunday was then known as the Bloody Sunday.

Based on these historical facts, Paul Greengrass strived to reconstruct the event through a part-dramatized and part-documentary film. The Bloody Sunday movie is about the Londonderry demonstration in 1972 that let to such a significant impact on the Catholic civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. Its focus is Ivan Cooper, the parliamentary representative for the city’s Catholic Bogside and a founder of the nationalist SDLP. On the same side of the story with the civil rights leader, the movie depicts teenage hooligans living in the spirit of youth and justice, and throwing rocks at the British military. There is a Catholic bishop and other innocent men, women, and children attending the march. The opposite side of the story is Major General Ford, the arrogant leader of the British peacekeeping force, who is under the pressure of maintaining order and arresting the inevitable troublemakers, and a young para with doubts of the reasons why the paratroopers are used.  The IRA is also present shortly in the movie with a mysterious purpose and plan. The whole movie is a volatile mix that ends in a catastrophic event when civilians were shot dead on the ground by the end of that Sunday. Bloody Sunday is impressive in a way that it focuses only on one day, an extremely tight 24 hour time frame, but manages to depict the event that lead up to so many things that had been going on in Northern Ireland. Within this time frame, Bloody Sunday presents all the main players of the event. The movie opened up with the press meeting of two sides: the military showing strong warnings of attending illegal marches and the civil rights association confirming the march for justice. As the camera comes back and forth between the two separate press conferences, the audience can clearly see the tension and the head-to-head-collision in attitude and upcoming plans of action from both sides. When the march is about to start, the military takes on a firm order to instill the law. The commander tells his soldiers “We got to be tough today, very tough.”  (Bloody Sunday, 2002). This opening immediately grasps attention of the audience and sets the serious characteristic of the movie.

As the movie moves on to reconstruct the event, there are many scenes that are accurate to the historical facts. First of all, it was true that the paratroopers were used as a scoop up squad with the original purpose was to quickly arrest and to split up the trouble makers, deterring them from continuing attacks. Posted on BBC News website is an actual video footage of the historical “Bloody Sunday”. Although it might have been edited, it shows the paratroopers running in so that they could take control and follow any other missions that they were attempting to complete. This shows that what the movie depicts is close to the historical fact. Another interesting scene that the movie presents is when the protesters progress toward the Guildhall. People line up and there is no end to be seen. In reality, it was estimated that there were about 10,000 marchers on that day. A group of breaking-away protesters starts to engage in violent activities: there are rocks and stones thrown at the paramilitary, who respond with gas and water spray at first, then rubber bullets, and lastly live rounds fired toward the crowds. In the movie, it is the paratroopers that fire the first shot, aiming at the group of marchers indiscriminately. This is the debatable and mysterious detail. According to the BBC News, after the shooting occurred, the soldiers said that they were fired upon first as they moved in to make arrests. Thus, they returned fire toward the protesters. However, the Catholic community said that there were soldiers on the ground and on the city walls that shot unarmed civilians. Until now, it is not clear who opened the fire first: was that the IRA as claimed by the British military or the paramilitary as claimed by the Catholic community? What really happened is still a mystery. In an inquiry by Lord Widgery, it was reported that the paratroopers were fired at first by suspicious gunman in the crowd. The Catholic community of course in no way accepted this report. Thus, the Widgery report timeline has been pushed back to March of 2010 to declare the final findings. Since official report of the event is not yet to reveal, it is impossible to justify how accurate the facts in the movie are. There are many different versions of truth covering the event of the Bloody Sunday. This movie is just one of those. Thus some of these screens portrayed in the movie are still mysterious and debatable. However, it is necessary to give credit to the director and film makers that they were courageous to create a moving and emotional version of the history that is not yet to unfold.

Besides the historical facts, Bloody Sunday is also known for its technical styles and mechanics in making the movie utterly real. The jumpy, handheld camera moves around the battlefield, covering a variety of corner of violence. As the camera jumps around and follows the actions closely, it shows a scene of a conversation here and a moment of action there, creating a sense of an eagle eye view of the event. The film’s considerable downside is that fully half of its Broguish dialogue is impossible for an American audience to understand and it covers such an event that has a huge impact on the Northern Ireland. However, it is this accent that definitely contributes to the authenticity of the movie. The handheld camera works well with the fading in and out of the scenes with a faster pace once the shooting started and blood flowing on to the ground. People are screaming, and running with bullets flying around wildly, creating a real sense of horror and terrifying feeling. All together, the language, the bumpy camera, and the use of documentary-like quick fades add to the movie’s rawness and reality. Moreover, there is some music in the movie, but only short, quick verses of patriotic songs of the love for the country and the Irish people. The movie ends with the passionate U2 anthem “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” creating sympathy with the Catholic minority.

Overall, Bloody Sunday does a commendable job re-constructing the tragic event-the Bloody Sunday, Jan 30th, 1972. By using a variety of techniques, the film makers were successful at creating an utter reality of the movie. It is of no doubts that Bloody Sunday is full of emotion and very moving to the audience, especially the Irish citizens. The question of the movie’s accuracy is left with the audience to justify themselves.


BBC News. Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Retrieved 02/15/2010 from

BBC News (2000). “Chronology: the Widgery Report.” Retrieved 02/15/2010 from

BBC News. “1972: Army kills 13 civil rights protests.” Footage retrieved 02/15/2010 from

Wikimedia/Northern Ireland. Retrieved 02/15/2010 from the Wikimedia:

Redhead, Mark. (Producer), & Greengrass, Paul. (Director). (Jan 25th 2002). Bloody Sunday. [Motion Picture]. UK: Studio Paramount Classics.

Widgery, Lords. (April 10th 1972). Widgery Report. Restrived 02/15/2010 from