Sundance: Punished for making political views before it cools, this charged documentary argues that our culture has failed the Irish singer.
“It was a shock to be a pop star. It is not what I want. I just wanted to scream,” Sinéad O’Connor said in “Nothing Compares,” a fascinating film about her life and career. Directed by Belfast-born Kathryn Ferguson, this unconventional musical documentary fares far from its spearhead visual writing, instead delving into O’Connor’s childhood trauma and how it reflects Ireland’s painful past.
Running interviews with simple voice-over backing talkers, Ferguson fills the image with a tightly edited collage of archival footage from the era, which highlights music videos and concert scene is more anticipated. What emerges is a more ephemeral portrait of the time and place that O’Connor emerged and is revolting against.
The film, executive produced by Charlotte Cook and Field of Vision, is known for its political non-fiction films with a cinematic goal, such as “American Factory” and “Strong Island”. It’s no surprise that a radical figure like Sinéad O’Connor was able to inspire Field of Vision’s first musical documentary, and the theme has been confirmed. “Nothing Compares” is a daring re-examination of O’Connor’s brief period of broader influence, and a stinging critique of the backlash of sexism and discrimination. Conservatism led her to withdraw from public life. Like its steadfast theme, it has a definite point of view, which is ultimately what makes it so worthwhile.
Today O’Connor doesn’t appear in the film until performing at the finale (she continues to make albums and touring despite her departure from the mainstream), but she is still frequently featured in the role. Voiceover through a current interview. Her reflections do not always correspond to the images on the screen, nor do they provide an intentional timeline like a traditional narrative. Never a categorical person, O’Connor left much unsaid while still painfully coming out.
A former musician, she shares her life’s sorrows with raw rawness and abstract lyricism. “I see it as a game of chess,” she says of her meteoric rise to international pop stardom. “Can I go from side to side of the board and still be true to myself?”
The series focuses on five of O’Connor’s most influential years, beginning with the release of her 1987 debut album “The Lion and the Cobra” and ending with her infamous 1992 appearance on “The Lion and the Cobra”. Saturday Night Live”, in which she tore up an image of Pope John Paul II. It’s hard to believe it’s been a relatively short time, but O’Connor’s shadow has become a household name in a particularly serious political age. Some of the most intriguing footage came from her talk show appearance, which saw a lot of clumsily male hosts cuddling and embracing her shaved head. But that was the least of O’Connor’s provocations.
Long before it was common for celebrities to express their political views, O’Connor knew she had a microphone and used it in many ways. In solidarity with the hip hop artists who boycotted the 1989 Grammy Awards because the rap awards weren’t televised, she performed with the Public Enemy logo painted on her shaved head. After she refused to take the stage if a New Jersey venue played the United States national anthem in 1990, it caused the radio station to lose power and Frank Sinatra to make threats. And of course, there’s an appearance of “SNL,” which the series plays in its entirety, in which O’Connor sings a soaring capella of Bob Marley’s “WAR.” The first reports of child abuse by the Catholic Church were recently broken, and she tore up a picture of the pope on which she had written “evil”, announcing: “let it be fight the real enemy.”
The backlash was swift and almost universal. Appearing at a Bob Dylan concert two weeks later, O’Connor failed to perform his scheduled song to the mockery of the crowd. About O’Connor, Kris Kristofferson called her someone “whose name has become synonymous with courage and integrity.” O’Connor’s career never took off again.
Ferguson ends the film with images of Ireland’s abortion ban in 2018, Parkland activist Emma González, the 2017 Women’s Rally in Washington and Pussy Riot. An Irish voice said: “Where is that righteous anger of a woman now. “Who is making a difference, who is standing up and being courageous, where are the little sparks of Sinéad.”
O’Connor is often asked about her regrets, especially regarding her performance of “SNL”. “I’m sorry that people have treated me like a bad thing,” she said. “I never set out to be a pop star. … It’s the proudest thing I’ve ever done as an artist. ”
“Nothing Compares” premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/01/nothing-compares-review-sinead-oconnor-documentary-1234694600/ ‘Nothing Compares’ Review: Proving Why Sinead O’Connor Is Better Wanted