First Night: Drama follows 'Four' film screening: In The Name Of The Father: Committee Room 20, House of Commons

David Lister
Wednesday 02 February 1994 00:02
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IT WAS the oddest but ultimately most dramatic setting for a powerful and emotional film followed by an even more powerful and emotional discussion - with accusations, shouting and tears from some of the film's real-life characters, writes David Lister.

After this advance showing to MPs of the dramatised story of the Guildford Four, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson, two Tory MPs accused the director of giving a misleading impression about how republican prisoners are treated.

Lord Fitt, who played a long and active role in the case, called the film a 'total misrepresentation'. This was followed by crying relatives of the Conlons - father and son were imprisoned - waving letters at Lord Fitt and accusing him of not going far enough. The director, Jim Sheridan, leapt up to defend himself, not entirely convincingly, saying that he wasn't making a documentary.

Gerry Conlon (the son) then made an impassioned speech to MPs in the committee room where the film was shown, calling on them to re-open the case to reveal the real murderers. He added that he still had nightmares about his beatings by the police, but said: 'English people, English MPs and English church leaders played the lead role in getting me out of prison. It wasn't Irish people. I would never want to be part of a film that stigmatised a whole nation or a whole police force for the actions of a few.'

The nightmarish story of the wrongful arrest, beatings and imprisonment of the Guildford Four is a tense and dramatic one, powerfully conveyed in this taut film even if that tension and drama wasn't helped by the film being halted at a crucial stage for MPs to vote on the Finance Bill. Nor was it helped by a host of inaccuracies which raise questions about the treatment of recent history and give those who oppose mass circulation for this story grounds to criticise it. The debate over the trend towards faction is certain to intensify.

UIP, the film's producers, were invited to screen it to an audience of MPs and peers by MPs Peter Bottomley and Harry Barnes, joint presidents of New Consensus, which campaigns for political reform in Northern Ireland.

(Photographs omitted)

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