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To Catholics in Northern Ireland it’s the Ballymurphy massacre, the shooting dead of 10 people in 1971 during three days of protests against internment in the Belfast neighbourhood of Ballymurphy. Most appear to have been killed by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment. The dead included a priest and a mother of eight, blasted in the face. This diligent, journalistic documentary puts “Precedent” in the title, setting out the case that the shootings created a culture of impunity in the army that led to Bloody Sunday a few months later.
Director Callum Macrae does an impressive job of sketching out a history of the Troubles, followed by a reconstruction of the shootings filmed on a drone camera, giving the whole thing a queasy authenticity. He hands over storytelling to survivors and families of the victims; they maintain that soldiers went on a killing spree, that none of the dead were connected to the IRA. The rawness of their grief and sense of injustice is hard to watch. After 47 years, few seem to have achieved healing; it could have been yesterday. An inquest into events at Ballymurphy is scheduled to begin next month. At the time, the army claimed its soldiers faced a gun battle with large numbers of IRA gunmen.
Interestingly, the film draws attention to female activists in the Catholic community in the early 1970s. Many women initially welcomed soldiers, making them tea and sandwiches. Later, when tensions escalated, they mocked and taunted troops in the streets, banging bin lids to warn of approaching soldiers. Shocking archive footage shows how rancorous these confrontations were. The daughter of Joan Connolly, the mother of eight killed, says that a soldier had threatened her mother with a gun. Unbearably, a brother and sister explain how, two years after their father was killed at Ballymurphy, the IRA abducted and murdered their 15-year-old brother, accusing him of being a traitor. He had learning difficulties. What a desperately sad film.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Ballymurphy Precedent review – touching personal accounts of the Troubles | Documentary films