Hunger—which we caught at TIFF and again at the European Film Festival—is perhaps the most tactile movie we have ever seen. The impressionistic docudrama chronicling the prison hunger strike by IRA soldier Bobby Sands and the conditions leading up to his decision to take such extreme action, is all about the body and the things that go into, come out of, and are done to it. The film, the feature debut by British artist Steve McQueen (not that one), thoroughly deglamourizes the notion of deliberately starving oneself, by forcing you to confront the physical consequences of the act; it does for this method of suicide what 2:37 did for wrist cutting.
Although the movie won’t be released in Canada until early in the new year, we recommend that the creator of the Facebook group Hunger Strike for Education get ahold of a copy right away. Intended to pressure CUPE 3903 and the York admin to return to the bargaining table, the group reasons, “If they will not acknowledge our internal pains, then they will, at least, be forced to acknowledge an external pain; going without food.”
There’s no hint of satire (and even if it were intended as such, it would still be in bad taste), as the description continues, “The average human body can go 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. A hunger strike will be planned, starting with the day that students should have been back in class for the winter semester….I received advice that it is better for several people to do this than just a single person. I hope some of you will be either interested or supportive.”
Now, there’s no doubt that even in the worst case any undertaking would not be more than a fraction as long or as dangerous as Sands’s sixty-six-day famine. But neither is the opponent in this case Maggie Thatcher, nor the ultimate goal one of national independence. (Without any apparent irony, the discussion board contains counsel and encouragement from a McGill alum who “completed a 15 day hunger strike” in 2005 to protest Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.)
It’s of course not uncommon in labour disputes for each side to attempt to one-up the other when it comes to silly posturing—but if this were the primary factor determining in whose favour the eventual contract will end up, then we think the students would come out of this one the real winners.