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Documenting the disaster

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By Fiona Reid
Front
Documenting the disaster

A NEW documentary series on Lockerbie will start on Sky tonight (Sat) and promises to be an ‘in-depth’ look at the 1988 disaster.

It has been made by Mindhouse Productions, owned by Louis Theroux and his wife Nancy Strang, who herself has local connections.

And director John Dower has spent over a year putting it together, including filming in the area and meeting some of those who were there that night.

Described as a ‘gripping and emotional four-part series’, it looks at the event from the town’s perspective as well as the international investigation that followed and is still ongoing.

Editor Fiona Reid spoke to John about the experience of filming and also to Rev John Mosey who lost his daughter Helga and shared his story for the programme.

DIRECTOR . . . John Dower

BE proud of yourselves.

That’s the message to the residents of Lockerbie from filmmaker John Dower ahead of his new documentary airing on Sky.

For he was struck by a comment from an American relative made during filming, when she said that the townsfolk had shown the rest of the world a lesson in humanity in how they responded to the 1988 disaster.

And John agrees after a year spent making ‘Lockerbie’ and visiting the area, during which he says they had a “warm welcome” and were “well treated”.

The result is a hard hitting four-parter that combines footage from the time with interviews with some of those affected locally, as well as people who have worked, and continue to work, on the investigation.

He doesn’t shy away from admitting it’s a tough watch but said: “I would hope people in Lockerbie will see what we have tried to make. We never wanted to feel like we were being invasive.

“We have tried to honour the story and their experience of what happened on that awful night and I do think we have done that.

“We wanted to try to get across a sense of what it must have been like for people in the town: the utter confusion and no idea what was happening. We have tried to show it in quite a visceral way: this was the experience as it unfolded for them.

“We try to be very tasteful and respectful at all points.”

But even he found it difficult to watch some of the original footage, as well as some of the interviews back in the editing suite, saying: “This has been the one film that actually I found harder and harder to watch each time.

“I’m pretty hardened but genuinely found it difficult looking at pictures and some of the shots with bodies in.

“I was shocked at how difficult I found watching some of the footage.”

He described it as “incredibly emotional” for everyone on his team, adding: “I formed quite an attachment to some of the people we filmed with. It’s hard not to.

“You do live the stories you make. It was a year of my life and I want to follow it now.”

John was also touched by the tales of kindness that emerged and said: “Given the complexity, we could have easily made a true crime, twisty and turny who dunnit.

“But I found myself when making it, at times, taking parts of the investigation out and putting in more of Lockerbie. I just felt that was what gave the film its ballast. The small moments of kindness and humanity.

“You should be proud of the way you reacted to this awful event,” he said this week.

Despite it being 35 years on, John and Nancy both felt the event deserved “a real in-depth treatment” and he was further driven by keeping it alive for the next generation.

“While I was making this, I was also struck by a lot of people who did not know of Lockerbie anymore,” he said.

“I do really strongly feel this story, you just have to bear witness to it,

people need to be reminded of it, it’s still ongoing.

“The characters like Jim Swire and Victoria Cummock and a lot of relatives, they became accidental activists and are still active.

“It’s been the biggest thing I have ever worked on.”

Another factor was his own “very small connection” to the disaster through a colleague of his mother’s at the time who was on the plane.

“I remember it vividly at the time and it was a big thing in our house,” he said.

That made him want “honour the story” and although not aiming to solve it, the director believes he has been able to “present what happened in the most in-depth way possible so viewers can make own decision.”

But he wonders if the full extent of the circumstances will ever emerge, adding: “From the beginning it was clear to relatives that they were not being given the whole picture.

“Things may still come out.”

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