And justice for all?

By altering certain real-life details for dramatic impact, In The Name Of The Father’s depiction of Gerry Conlon’s wrongful imprisonment for the Guildford pub bombings has thrown itself into a personal and political minefield. Alan Morrison puts writer-director Jim Sheridan in the dock.

IRA activity opens itselfto a pounding in the United

from the airwaves when a bomb killed a child in Warrington; Mickey Rourke’s misquoted ’lRA

The Dying. And so, it’s probably impossible to approach Jim Sheridan’s account of the life of (km Conlon one of the Guildford Four, wrongly imprisoned for the 1974 pub bombings in which five people died free of emotional baggage.

This case, tied as it is with the forensic discreditation of the Maguire Seven verdict, is undeniably one of the most unforgivable miscarriages of British justice to have come to light in recent years. However, the story plays out within the context of IRA terrorism, which tends to cloud the judgement of some viewers as much as it did those policemen who arrested Conlon and forced a ‘confession’ from him after a week of physical and psychological torture.

Even those who would grant Sheridan the right to shape his narrative with artistic licence are uneasy with the liberties he has taken, particularly concerning Annie Maguire and her family. While being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Conlon wrote under duress - a long statement implicating his Aunt Annie; in the movie, he signs a blank statement. Yes, the Maguires deserve a better deal, but this is not their story. This is the story of a cocky young Belfast lad, framed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, who comes to reassess his life through the influence of his father. Gerry Conlon is glorified at the expense of others, but his spiritual revival is far more uplifting and relevent for a battle-scarred nation.

Perhaps. in real life, Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon didn’t share a cell; perhaps the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven trials were held independently; perhaps Gareth Pierce, the crusading lawyer played by Emma Thompson, capitalised on legal work done by colleagues and didn’t make such a stirring speech at the appeal. Singling out a handful of discrepancies should not, however, call into question the integrity of the film as a whole. Sheridan may manipulate the

Any film that even so much as touches the fringes of

Kingdom. Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda was whipped

sympathies’ provided tabloid fuel after A Prayer For

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3 evidence, as did the police, but he does so as part of a

‘healing’ process. In this case, the end justifies the


“You know, reality doesn’t play sometimes,‘

' ventures Sheridan, the man who gave us My Left

-, Foot and The Field. ‘We start with the bombing. Now, the bombing didn’t start the series of events,

but nobody has cn'ticised us for starting with it or for

showing it in slow-motion. The reason we did that was to create a context with this act. this flash of

; light that didn’t illuminate anything but just killed five people, the original victims. I felt we had a

- responsibility to all the victims, and the first were the

people who died in Guildford. Everyone was

victimised to a greater or lesser degree after that.

We’re never criticised for the context we created;

we’re criticised because they didn’t have sausages in

Annie Maguire’s. No matter what we did in this

story, we were going to be criticised. because,

although 90 per cent of people will react to the film

and say it’s a painting of events, some people with positions to defend will just attack it because they havetof

‘I felt we had a responsibility to all the victims, and the first were the people who died In Guildford. Everyone was victimised to a greater or lesser degree after that.’

it all comes down to the viewer’s subjective definition of Sheridan’s ‘painting of events’: is it a huge white-wash, or the touching up of details on a portrait? Audiences in Northern Ireland and Eire have certainly taken the film to heart; it has played across the communities and has taken around £1 .5 million at the box office, second only to Jurassic Park. it’s on the mainland that it has caused more of a furore, although its House of Commons special screening last Tuesday didn’t catch the headlines as much as Gerry Adams’ visit to the United States. Sheridan is convinced, however, that his film is confrontational rather than deliberately controversial, but he stops short in assigning it a role in reopening

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sputum/I'd by BACARDI BLACK

of the cost powerfully charged films of recent years’ the case against those police officers who fabricated evidence.

’If you focus on the police. you‘re focussing on the wrong thing,’ he argues. ‘l‘m saying if I’m a policeman walking into that station from Guildford having seen those dead bodies. and it’s my chance to make them confess, now, i have to ask myself, “Would I use violence or not‘?". And ifl say i wouldn’t use violence, I think I'd probably be lying to myself. So, I find it hard to believe that they didn’t intimidate them. But that’s not a problem even the framing is not a problem. The problem occurs when the IRA guy. or whoever it was, says he did it. When it became clear that they didn’t do it. and there was a meeting in the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office. Forget the police, the police are doing their job it’s the higher up decision that needs to be judged}

In The Name Of The Father does indict a legal system that allows someone to be slammed in jail for fifteen years mainly because of their nationality. More importantly, however, it stands tall as a piece of cinema in its own right; and. as the dramatised treatment ofa true story, it pulls itselfeven higher to become one of the most powerfully charged films of recent years. The essence of these events are true, and all Sheridan has done is present this truth within the narrative format ofthe feature film.

It also raises itself above the standard prison/courtroom drama by concentrating on the Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon relationship. Sheridan has put faces to groups that the media has so easily split into containable units the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and he never allows us to forget that here were a son and a father, an aunt. an uncle, nephews. Daniel Day-Lewis (Gerry) and Pete Postlethwaite (Guiseppe) give career-best performances, giving the movie an emotional centre that doesn’t let its abstract. political themes overwhelm the audience. When the dust settles, In The Name Of The Father will be remembered as a story that had to be told and, in its telling. increased its impact not through the blurring of details, but through the commitment of its makers and the genius of its cast.

In The Name Of The Father opens in Scotland on Friday 11 February.

14 The List 1 1—24 February 1994