A cause celebre rendered in flat tones and without anger

Lawrence case
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THE FOOTAGE is often grainy and the sound muffled. The hand-held camera darts about with a studied restlessness. The makers of Granada TV's The Murder of Stephen Lawrence wanted to make the film as much like a documentary as possible and to a large extent they appear to have succeeded.

But what has gained the film, broadcast last night, so much publicity already is its supposed agenda on one of the most emotive murders in recent British history, with its racist motivation and allegations of police incompetence and corruption.

It was made by the company of Yvette Vanson, the wife of Michael Mansfield, the left-wing QC who acted for the Lawrence family and who is expected to come in for his share of criticism in Sir William McPherson's report due to be published next week.

The Metropolitan Police Federation, some of whose members will come in for far more scathing criticism than the defence lawyers, have accused the production of being selective and distorting.

The allegations have been rejected by Stephen Lawrence's parents, Doreen and Neville, and Granada TV.

But the shortcoming of the film is not so much whether or not it is faithful to the letter of what happened but the approach. The producers said they eschewed concentration on the personal rather than police procedure because that would be too neatly packaged and "bogus".

The corollary of this is that, despite a fine cast, there is a curious lack of continuity and a failure to fully convey not just the pain and anger of the Lawrences but the remorseless pattern of neglect and indifference which led to Stephen's killers escaping justice.

Occasionally the film does manage to convey the emotions Mr and Mrs Lawrence must have felt as well as their dignity - the pain of Mr Lawrence as he listens at the inquest to the details of the casual violence with which his son was killed, Mrs Lawrence watching the alleged killers exercising their right to silence and the burial of Stephen away from England are very moving. But they were exceptional moments which tended to highlight the flatness of the rest.

This is not to dismiss the contribution. It has, after all, got Mr and Mrs Lawrence's approval. No one knows more than them what it was like to go through what they did. That will guarantee the film's place in the history of Stephen's murder.