By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Greengrass‘ cinematic model is Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 movie The Battle of Algiers, which also featured a former colony in revolt, a battalion of paratroopers, internment, torture, and armed struggle by nationalists. Replication of Pontecorvo‘s style -- a brilliant faking of newsreel and documentary techniques -- is what interests Greengrass, and he has adopted it wholesale, his camera inserting itself again and again into the thick of things, shuddering, flickering, and so on. The result is a remarkably plausible facsimile of faded BBC news footage from the period -- all too familiar to British and Irish viewers -- with the primaries bleached out, olive drabs, grays, greens and browns constituting the full color spectrum. The only exceptions are the Paras’ distinctive purple berets and the spilled blood they foreshadow. Yet despite the stampeding crowds and the bullets flying overhead, Greengrass achieves a remarkable clarity of exposition, never letting the confusion of events obscure what actually happened.
The filmmaker limits himself to one day, January 30, 1972, and to one place, the Bogside Catholic ghetto of Londonderry, where the events transpired. Relying only on verified eyewitness accounts, Greengrass focuses on figures from all sides, each chosen because their stories bridge the sectarian divide (as does the movie itself, a British-Irish co-production). There‘s Gerry Donaghy, a young Catholic marcher with a Protestant girlfriend (he’s played by Declan Duddy, whose uncle died on Bloody Sunday); a conscience-stricken Para (Mike Edwards, an ex-soldier) who fears what his fellow soldiers, hardened by a tour in Belfast, will do when let off the leash; and a Catholic officer of the mostly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Actor James Nesbitt, himself an Ulster Protestant with no time for Orange bigotry, plays Ivan Cooper, leader of the Northern Irish Civil Rights Association, a middle-class Protestant spearheading a working-class Catholic movement. NICRA strove to maintain its ideal of nonviolent protest to secure access to decent public housing for Catholics and the end of internment without trial, which the British had introduced the previous summer. The British Army command meanwhile sought to use the Paras as a snatch squad, believing that firing on marchers would disperse the part-timers and leave only IRA regulars, who would then be interned. Unfortunately, the IRA had honored Cooper‘s request to stay away, and it seems likely that the Paras did run amok on this, their first day in Londonderry, in part as revenge for the recent bombing of their Belfast barracks. All hope of nonviolent protest died on Bloody Sunday, as embittered survivors joined the IRA en masse that very night. The Ulster Question was thenceforth to be asked and answered with gunfire and explosives. Bloody Sunday is both an admirable reconstruction of terrible events, and a fitting memorial to the dead of that day, and of the thousands thereafter.
BLOODY SUNDAY | Written and directed by PAUL GREENGRASS, from the book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday by Don Mullan | Produced by ARTHUR LAPPIN and MARK REDHEAD | Released by Paramount Classics | At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, Westside Pavilion
THE GREY ZONE | Written and directed by TIM BLAKE NELSON, from a memoir by Miklos Myiszli | Produced by NELSON, CHRISTINE VACHON and PAMELA KOFFLER | Released by Lions Gate Films | At Landmark‘s Cecchi Gori Fine Arts, NuWilshire, Laemmle’s Town Center 5
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