Kathryn Ferguson’s film argues that the fearless Irish star was, above all, a protest singer
By Wendy Ide
Even before Sinéad O’Connor shredded a photograph of the pope on live television, she generated an unusually hostile response from certain sectors of the media. The shaved head, the androgynous look, the frosty stare from those huge eyes: nothing about O’Connor ticked the 1980s pop commodity boxes. But as this moving documentary explores, the young woman who idolised Bob Dylan saw herself as a protest singer foremost; her celebrity was a means of amplifying her political voice as much as her singing voice.
She was, the film argues, a woman ahead of her time, both in her style and in her outspoken proto #MeToo statements. A traumatic childhood made her tenacious in her support for vulnerable and voiceless people; it also made her sensitive to the criticisms targeted at her. It’s small wonder that she effectively torpedoed the stardom she never much wanted anyway.