Glass reviews documentary No Stone Unturned and interviews producer Trevor Birney

IN 1994, two masked men walked into a pub in Loughlinisland, County Down, Northern Ireland, and assassinated six innocent men as they watched Ireland play The World Cup. The Loughinisland Massacre, as it would come to be known, was a notoriously unsolved crime committed at the height of the troubles, emblematic of the tit-for-tat guerrilla warfare between Catholic (IRA) and Protestant (UVF) paramilitary groups, with morally dubious involvement from the British government. Alex Gibney, the Oscar and Emmy-winning documentarian, sets out to uncover the truth and deliver his own form of justice for the families of the victims.

Article imageThe location of the massacre, Heights Bar

No Stone Unturned begins with a shocking re-enactment of the murder, followed by historic news footage of politicians and world leaders who express their outrage and commitment to bringing the suspects to justice. However, as we find out from the families 22 years later, this turned out to be nothing more than a hollow claim. With zero suspects identified or charged, Gibney uses interviews with journalists, ex-policemen, ex-paramilitaries and British officials to present a compelling claim of a political cover-up, reaching up into the highest echelons of the British government.

Gibney is a strong interviewer, frequently pushing his interviewees, especially some investigators involved with the case, into challenging, even compromising territory. While often uncomfortable to watch, you get the sense that he is pressing against some very uncomfortable truths. In particular, his lingering shots on guilty faces are powerful, betraying the huge weight of the massacre on the personal and public conscience. He goes further than most traditional documentarians in pursuing complicit individuals who have tried to escape their past, even tracking them down to foreign countries with private investigators. This all leads to a satisfying, if haunting, dénouement that allows Gibney to mete out a form of social justice. No Stone Unturned is a bold piece of work from an audacious filmmaker – one with a dogged and resolute point of view that he’s not afraid to pursue.

Glass spoke to Trevor Birney, the multi-award-winning producer of the film and discussed its personal and social impact.

What was your motivation for pursuing the case of the Loughinsisland massacre?
I was a local radio journalist at the time of the attack and the horror of that time stayed with me. I was watching the match on that evening on the television and Belfast was extremely tense due to the shootings that had occurred earlier in the week. When the news came through that there had been an attack, no one was really that surprised. No one could understand why anyone would want to target such a rural, peaceful community. The fact that we were on the edge of peace and end to the violence that had stalked Northern Ireland for 25 years made the attack all the more shocking.

TrevorProducer Trevor Birney

Was it difficult persuading your interviewees to take part due to the controversial nature of the documentary?
There was no difficulty in persuading the families to take part – they supported us right from the start and are the most amazing group of victims I have come across in Northern Ireland. They have supported each other throughout the last 22 years and wanted the world to know what happened to them. We spoke to many former police officers who were very helpful but were unable to go on camera. I’ve nothing but admiration for those former officers who did go on camera to tell their stories.

What do you think are the consequences of the Maguire report (and the discoveries made in your documentary, including the naming of the suspects) for the local community?
The families have told us that the film has been a cathartic experience. They have known the names of the suspects for over 20 years and so have many others living in the community. The world has changed since 1994 and Northern Ireland has enjoyed many years of peace and relative stability. For many families and victims who have suffered on both sides of the conflict, their main goal now is to find out the truth behind their loved ones’ death. Many gave up hope of justice a long time ago – they say they would settle for someone to tell them the full story of why their relative died. We hope we have provided the Loughinisland families with the truth. They are the lucky ones. Its unlikely that thousands like them will ever get that moment.

by Lucy Wai

No Stone Unturned is now available on all major VOD platforms

 

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