BFI London Film Festival: No Stone Unturned

No Stone Unturned
No Stone Unturned
Directed by Alex Gibney
Screening at LFF October 7th, 2017

by Richard Hamer

On the 18th of June, 1994, six men were gunned down in a small, country pub in Northern Island while they sat to watch the World Cup. Despite several arrests, and the passage of more than 20 years, nobody has ever been charged – let alone convicted – for what became known as the ‘Loughinisland Massacre’. It was an act of brutality in a period of Irish history filled with brutality; one distinguished for both its seeming randomness, and the fact that it remains unsolved.

With No Stone Unturned, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney at first approaches the case as a murder mystery. Accompanied by grim re-enactment footage, the ‘clues’ are laid out: The abandoned vehicle, the duffel bag filled with balaclavas, the discarded assault rifle in a grassy field… But soon it becomes clear that to ‘solve’ Loughinisland, one must delve deep into the history of the Troubles, and the campaigns of revenge and reprisal that defined it.

This is investigative filmmaking at its finest, a detailed and unflinching breakdown of the culture of violence, incompetence and corruption that allowed so many of the crimes committed during the Troubles to go unpunished. Incorporating evidence uncovered from journalists, and an independent governmental report into the atrocity, No Stone Unturned is at times exhaustingly thorough, often going word-by-word through redacted documents and hand-written confessions, piecing together the truth between the lines. This combination of interviews, archive footage and many, many close-ups of typed reports tells an important story, but one that can make for dry viewing.

But such criticisms pale in the face of what this movie does achieve: It is a lifting of the veil on a story that many in power wish to see forgotten, and a compelling reminder of the human cost of conflict; a cost that continues to be paid every day in the grief of its survivors. The BFI London Film Festival hosted the European premiere of No Stone Unturned with one of those survivors in attendance, along with the lawyer who has represented them for much of their two-decade fight for justice. They spoke only a few words after the screening, but through them I witnessed how exposing it must feel to allow your suffering to be the subject of cinema, and how much it must mean when the result does it justice.

On a personal level, this movie serves as a reminder of our place on a continuum of history: That the terrorism in the UK today does not compare with that of the past, where gunfire rang daily in the streets of Belfast, and in London, bombs exploded in bins. We are in many ways ‘lucky’, gifted with a peace that, the longer it lasts, becomes easy to take for granted. Movies like No Stone Unturned need to be made, in case we ever start to forget.


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