This brave documentary focuses on the life and musical career of Sinead O’Connor who was born in Dublin, Ireland. She had a turbulent relationship with her mother and then endured beatings by nuns when she was sent to a Roman Catholic Magdalene home. She later characterized the place as “a nest of Devils that’s run by people with no respect for God or children or the rest of us.”
Despite being exploited by authoritarian teachers, this gifted singer and songwriter created a name for herself when she was only in her twenties. O’Connor refused to subscribe to Irish gender roles and shaved her head. Unlike many other rock singers and bands, she was a warrior in the cultural wars of the times. She spoke out against the exploitation of women, the violent persecution of Black people by the police, and the wars raging around the world. She incarnated what Cornel West has called “the premier prophetic language of cries and tears because human hurt and misery give rise to visions of justice and deeds of compassion.”
Director Kathryn Ferguson does a fine job presenting this talented singer/songwriter’s swift rise from traumatized teenager to Rolling Stone cover girl. There are interviews with friends and band members that shed light on the most controversial evening in her life and career. During an appearance on TV’s Saturday Night Live, O’Connor held up a picture of Pope John Paul II and then tore it in half to protest his role in the sex scandals of the Catholic churches. Two weeks later she was booed off the stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.
“They tried to bury me,” O’Connor later said. “They didn’t realize I was a seed.”
Joan Chittister, the activist Benedictine sister challenges us to claim our prophetic dimension:
“What the world needs right now is a new generation of prophets. The problem is that we have lost all respect for them. In fact, we may not even recognize them when we see them. Yet, it was precisely for times such as ours that God sent the prophets. It is surely time for this generation to rediscover them.”
Nothing Compares is a bold documentary about a prophetic singer and songwriter.