BOB GARFIELD: Recently journalist and independent filmmaker Paul Greengrass filmed his version of Bloody Sunday at a cost of only 4 and a half million dollars. It just won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on the British television channel ITV. According to the conservative Daily Mail newspaper, the film has tainted the Saville Inquiry by pre-judging the events of that day and portraying British soldiers as coldblooded killers. Greengrass says he used information from the inquiry in making the film which is part documentary, part drama. He even used citizens of Derry and former British soldiers to re-enact the story.
PAUL GREENGRASS: What I would say that the real inspiration for this film is the Petagoa [sp?] movie Battle of Algiers which had a fantastic influence on me as a, as a young man and a young filmmaker.
BOB GARFIELD:Just for background this was a film that also used actual participants from the French battle with Algerian terrorists as cast members-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
PAUL GREENGRASS: Absolutely.
BOB GARFIELD: -- in the, the story about the Algerian Revolution. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
PAUL GREENGRASS: Absolutely. It has a very clear message, and it's a message from the kind of - right from the heart of the mid-1960s that guerilla wars of national liberation in the end are unstoppable because at the end of the film, although the terrorist cell is destroyed, the people come out on the street and independence comes. What's interesting to me is having lived through 30 years of the troubles, that message is no longer applicable. The conflict in, in Northern Ireland shows us that guerilla wars of national liberation only impede the search for peace and create m-- further injustice, further bloodshed, and further bitterness.
BOB GARFIELD:You invoked the Battle of Algiers; let's move forward in time a little bit. The film JFK, and to a lesser degree, Nixon wove together historical events and fictional scenarios for which there was little or no evidentiary basis. Were you conscious in the making of your film of the sort of "Oliver Stoning" of history?
PAUL GREENGRASS: Very, very much so. I think by and large if you look at films that are made about true stories, true events that they tend to come in, in two types, I think. One is the kind of conspiratorial view of history which I think, you know, Oliver Stone, he makes brilliant films, but at the core of his films there tend to be this kind of conspiratorial view of the way the world works. That's not the way I see history; it's not the way I see the world working, and, and it's not the way that Bloody Sunday works. The-- this film's about how if you create dangerous conditions, if you allow tensions and confrontations to emerge, events will slip beyond your control and violence will ratchet one way and an until finally you achieve the death of innocent people, and that's the big difference between how I would see events and you know what you - you referred to as the Oliver Stone version of history which is much more-- conspiratorial.
BOB GARFIELD: Shortly after Bloody Sunday the British government formed a commission that essentially was a whitewash for the British troops-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
PAUL GREENGRASS: Yeah.
BOB GARFIELD: -- and it blamed the violence on the protesters.
PAUL GREENGRASS: Yup.
BOB GARFIELD: The Saville Inquiry, a second commission, convened as an official truth and reconciliation exercise.
PAUL GREENGRASS: Yeah.
BOB GARFIELD:Presuming for a moment that its eventual final report squares with the events in your film, do you think that your film pre-empts the work of the Saville Inquiry, and are, are there any ramifications of that?
PAUL GREENGRASS: The problem with Saville is that his work has been going on now for nearly 4 years, and it has got at least another 2 to 3 years to go --if it ever reports at all. And it seems to me that in a circumstance like that where you're executive power is finding it very hard to deliver justice, then you need your journalists, your filmmakers, your writers, your artists to step into that gap to deliver very clearly some simple truths about it so that people can understand what the issues are. And that's what I've tried to do.
BOB GARFIELD: Paul Greengrass, thank you very much for joining us.
PAUL GREENGRASS: Thank you. [THEME MUSIC]
BOB GARFIELD:That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Janeen Price and Katya Rogers with Sean Landis and Michael Kavanagh; engineered by Scott Strickland and Dylan Keefe, and edited-- by Brooke. We had help from Allison Lichter and Jim Colgan. Our web master is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Mike Pesca is our producer at large, Arun Rath our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from National Public Radio. I'm Brooke Gladstone.