Bloody Sunday


Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by:Paul Greengrass
Starring: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell, Gerard McSorley
Released: October 3, 2002
Grade: A

In 1971, the British Government introduced internment without trial in Northern Ireland.  They did so under severe pressure from the Unionist Government who warned against a rising tide of Catholic unrest.  On January 30, 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association organised a protest march through the city of Free Derry.  At 2:50pm, it began.

The initial plan was for the march to conclude at the Guildhall but the British Army had erected barricades to turn them away.  Led by the local member of Parliament, Ivan Cooper (Nesbett), the crowd marched instead to Free Derry Corner.  However, a breakaway group tried to continue on to the Guildhall and a riot ensued.  At 4:07pm, an order was given for the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment to begin an arrest operation of the breakaway group.

The army fired on the rogue group and over the next 30 minutes, 13 protesters were killed and a further 14 injured from gunshot wounds.  Not a single soldier was injured.  Soldiers claimed they had seen the protesters with guns and nail bombs although no eyewitness accounts could confirm this.  21 soldiers fired a total of 108 rounds in the massacre.

An investigation was performed led by Lord Widgery who concluded the soldiers were fired on first and the deaths would have been avoided if the illegal marchers had not created such “a highly dangerous situation”.  The soldiers who orchestrated the attack were praised and in fact some were later decorated by the Queen.  To most however, Widgery’s report was regarded as fabricated garbage.  There was no conclusive proof those killed held firearms, testimony was not taken from wounded survivors, forensic evidence was flawed and many eyewitnesses were not called.

Twenty five years later, the Irish Government submitted a dossier of evidence to the UK government demanding a fresh inquiry.  In January 1998, Tony Blair announced an independent judicial inquiry headed by Lord Saville would be conducted.  The enquiry began in 2000 and is ongoing to this date.

Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, Bloody Sunday shows both the lead-up and aftermath to that tragic day in 1972.  His screenplay is based on a 1997 book published by Don Mullan which drew attention to the holes in the Widgery Tribunal.  Instead of shooting it as a conventional drama, the film is shot documentary-style.  To give the audience the sense of confusion that people themselves felt on the day, the camera is shaky and the colours grainy.  It’s reminiscent of war footage we see on the news each week.

Given the number of extras required, it’s impossible to comprehend how Greengrass made it look so real.  Perhaps it was the film’s importance in exposing the truth that had residents of Northern Ireland flock to support and be part of it.  In a cast of few big names, James Nesbett leads the pack with an exemplary performance.  You will be amazed.

Despite not being released in the United States, Bloody Sunday is already making headlines.  It shared the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival which has been previously won by films including Magnolia, The Thin Red Line, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sense And Sensibility and In The Name Of The Father.  The film also won the World Cinema Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Some films are made for entertainment but some are made for more important reasons.  After 30 years of misinformation, the world is finally hearing the truth about Bloody Sunday.  Thank god for film.