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The Independent Culture
One man, a lonely carpenter, said that he'd been inspired by the film Witness, with its idyllic scenes of communal barn-building. Another woman confessed that her favourite childhood reading had been The Swiss Family Robinson, and talked fondly about bamboo plumbing. Both of them were hoping to sell up everything to live on a tropical island, as part of an ideal community conceived by Tony Craig and his wife Lyn, who had advertised for 400 families to join them and whose bumpy progress towards the New Jerusalem was traced in "Paradise Island", a nicely judged film for Cutting Edge (C4). Had none of these people ever read Lord of the Flies, you wondered, or The Mosquito Coast, in which a flight from civilisation leads to madness and murder? Could they not see that the very qualities which would make people apply - distrust of their fellow men, fear and suspicion - would also make them the very last people to build Utopia beneath the palms?

Well, clearly not, or there would have been no project and no film. But even if you couldn't see the writing on the beach yourself - lulled by the fantasy of starting from scratch - Lucy Sandys-Winsch made sure that you knew the dream was doomed with a single repeated image of a sandcastle. The tide, you could see, was coming in, lapping at those friable walls. The first cracks were procedural; meeting up for an early discussion, the founders had difficulty organising the lunch table. Then there was Tony's reluctance to get down to detail, which meant that attempts to draft a constitution were long and fruitless. His trip to Panama, to examine San Jose island and negotiate with its owners, wasn't very promising either - he seemed a bit too prone to depression to serve as a latter-day Moses. The castle finally collapsed when it was revealed that Tony had very good reasons for his reluctance to use psychological profiling or investigative vetting. He knew he would fail such tests himself, having convictions for shop-lifting and assault and having also been accused of abusing his daughter by a former wife (he was acquitted of specimen charges of indecency). "I haven't got a daughter. They don't exist these people," he said chillingly, at which point Sandys-Winsch cut to a snapshot of him cuddling the non-existent girl. Paradise was cancelled due to sudden lack of interest.

The reporter for the Panorama film "Dunblane: the Legacy" (BBC1) had the considerable audacity to use the phrase "as we have discovered" early in her account of the massacre. "Discovered", one can only assume, by going down to the cuttings library and working diligently through the acres of newsprint devoted to the incident. Because this account of that awful event contained, as far as I could see, not a single new fact about the case.

You don't have to think for very long to come up with some under-explored areas for journalistic inquiry. Panorama might have done fresh research into how many gun licences have ever been rescinded or refused in this country, before Dunblane as well as after. Alternatively, they could have investigated the financial interests which have now mobilised to protect the interests of that dubious creature, the "respectable handgun-owner". Even if they simply wanted to refresh public indignation in advance of The Cullen Report, they could have done it with more investigative edge. They might, for example, have made life a little more uncomfortable for the procurator fiscal who decided not to take action against Thomas Hamilton or the deputy chief constable who stamped "No Action" on a damning report by one of his own detectives. Instead, they settled for this emotionally exploitative recapitulation - lingering over photographs of the murdered children, graveside visits and the painful recollections of the bereaved. It was often a very moving film - how could it not be? - but it advanced the public knowledge not a millimetre. The proper duty of Panorama, I would have thought, is not to make parents cry but to make people in authority sweat. They failed miserably.

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