Made-for-TV dramatized documentary about the Hillsborough stadium disaster on Saturday 15 April 1989 in which 96 Liverpool Football Club fans were crushed to death on the terraces at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Wednesday football ground. Jimmy McGovern's script follows a number of the victims' families before and after the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The first half of the film reconstructs some of the events on match day; the second half documents the effect of the disaster on the families and the proceedings of the inquest up to 1991. The drama is based on fact using court transcripts and eye-witness reports.
The film is heavily critical of the police's management of the crowd problems at the game and of their insensitive treatment of the families in the aftermath. Chief Superintendent David Duckinfield is portrayed in a particularly bad light, seemingly out of his depth and unable to respond quickly enough to the over-filled pens behind the goal at the Leppings Lane end, which he witnessed from the police control tower and on television monitors.
McGovern alleges that the police tried to cover up their incompetence by asking officers not to note down what they had seen on the day in their notebooks. They also tried to shift the blame on to the fans by asking the relatives how much they thought the victims had had to drink when they entered the ground. A number of policemen thought the crowd trouble was caused by rival fans fighting each other rather than poor crowd management by the police as too many fans were forced down the tunnel into the two central pens behind the goal.
There is no attempt to place the Hillsborough tragedy in its wider context within the state of football in 1989. Throughout the 1970s and 80s there had been a number of football disasters in which violent fans were partly to blame, most notably the Heysel stadium disaster before the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus in Belgium on 29 May 1985. Although that narrow focus biases the tone of this film, it was obviously not the aim of the filmmakers, who instead portray on the effect that Hillsborough had on the families of the victims.
Nugget: an important polemic about a terrible event. The cast includes Ricky Tomlinson and Christopher Eccleston.