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88 Chemical Brothers, Aim
WATCH IT THIS FORTNIGHT
TV BLOODY SUNDAY Scottish, Sun 20 Jan, 10pm .0000
SUNDAY Channel 4, Mon 28 Jan, 9pm 0...
Thatcher, it’s that her era was a ripe one for
British TV dramatists and documentary filmmakers with a conscience. Everything from nuclear war (Threads), Northern Ireland (Shoot To Kill, Who Bombed Birmingham?) and the Falklands (Tumbledown) were potent areas for writers and directors unenamoured of the status quo.
Blair’s Britain has lacked such pioneering works; perhaps it’s another example of the apathy rife in our nation, or maybe everything is just perfectly rosy, thanks very much. Two men who continue to challenge that status quo are Paul Greengrass (The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence) and Jimmy McGovern (Hillsborough and Dockers) whose films feel like they’re from another era, where respect in state authority has eroded so much that the only thing to believe is that grand conspiracies run from top to bottom.
80, it seems perfectly apt that those two should be locking horns to mark the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when the death of thirteen Catholics in Derry at the hands of the Parachute Regiment led to a tragic watershed in the Northern Ireland conflict. Sunday 30 January 1972 not only witnessed the death of unarmed civilians but saw the demise of the civil rights movement and the birth of the modern IRA.
Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday and McGovern’s Sunday both bite the bullet of that traumatic day, reopening wounds that have barely healed. Naturally, the likes of A.A. Gill, Boris Johnson and similar knee-jerk unionist columnists will have a field day; it’s nothing but pro- Republican propaganda, they’ll say, with soldiers seen as simply bloodthirsty maniacs led by bumbling brigadier toffs. Let’s hope they have the decency to watch the films first before reaching those conclusions.
And yet, while the thrust of the dramas are going in the same direction, delivery and viewpoints are diverse enough to merit watching both. Bloody Sunday’s perspective comes
I f there’s one thing that could be said for
90 The Shadow Of Zorro
91 Hedwig And The Angry Inch
largely from the civil rights activist Ivan Cooper played by the excellent James Nesbitt, whose passionate performance shows there’s much more to him than standing round naked with flowers stuck up his arse.
When one section of Cooper’s ‘Sunday strollers’ heads down a blocked-off road, a clash with the Paras begins and live rounds are fired into the crowd. From the opening scenes of two press conferences - one held by the army declaring the civil rights march as asking for trouble and the other by Cooper demanding the end to internment - the whole film is shot by jittery hand-held camera.
This technique breeds an aesthetic of utter confusion, whether it is actually hearing what people are saying to each other or trying to decipher where shots are coming from. The effect is mesmerising from start to finish, when the inevitable U2 anthem strikes up.
McGovern’s more obviously cinematic effort comes from the perspective of the Young family, whose two sons John and Leo are on the march. John ends up dead, Leo (Ciaran McMenamin) finishes the day embittered and pondering
Both bite the bullet of that traumatic day, reopening wounds that have barely healed
whether his future is built around vengeance and the Armalite.
Sunday is so obviously a Jimmy McGovern production. The structure is a familiar one: context, main event, family trauma, whitewashed public enquiry. Whereas Greengrass’ film lands you deep in the heart of terror and drags you agonising though one day
93 Chewin’ The Fat, Andy Warhol
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98 Cafe culture
96 Undiscovered Turkey
in hell, McGovern’s feels a rush and while he allows McMenamin to ﬂex his obvious potential, Christopher Eccleston is somewhat wasted as the gun-crazy General Ford. And was Corin Redgrave’s cameo as a giggling Ted Heath really necessary? Still, his compassion for the families is raw and real, the scenes of grief tangible.
Many questions remain unanswered from the day’s events: why were the pro-active Paras called for in the first place, when this was seen as just another peace march? Did the army really plant nail bombs on one of the corpses? Was this the first example of a shoot to kill policy? And why aren’t there more people making films like these? (Brian Donaldson)
17—31 Jan 2002 THE LIST 83