Lost Lives: Beauty from sorrow
by Allan LEONARD
1 October 2019
At Queen’s Film Theatre, Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt welcomed guests to a preview screening of Lost Lives, inspired by the acclaimed book of the same name, one which Lavery described as a monumental achievement: “Lost Lives was always at my side when I was making documentaries.” In the film, they sought to do justice to the book. This included ensuring that every person named in the book appeared in the film.
“This film isn’t a current affairs piece, nor a history documentary, but a testimony to all those who lost their lives during the conflict,” McVeigh added.
The book is repeatedly featured in the film physically, as a sacred text, placed amongst the natural world, suspended in the forest, above the ocean, with gusts of wind turning the pages. Not as a cold, stony memorial, but as a living spirit.
Set against an original and emotive music score sung by the Codetta Choir and the Ulster Orchestra are visual displays of bustling contemporary life, the serenity of nature, the emptiness of abandoned buildings, the shock of tragic news.
Professional actors were recorded reading a selection of around one hundred stories of the deceased, from which a selection were chosen to be included in the film — the children, the soldiers, the civilians, the paramilitaries, the families. The words are those written in the book.
Several stories were from those who died as a result of their actions (premature bomb detonations, attempted escape from prison). A couple of stories were from those who ended their lives by suicide. Some might judge such persons as not innocent or immediate victims. But the film includes a powerful story that may cause you to reconsider such a view.
And indeed such is the beauty and power of Lost Lives. As a true work of artistry, it provokes you to reflect about a time and a place and to think about the future. The film transcends — whether you lived through the Troubles or not, experienced conflict in Northern Ireland or not, you feel the universality of pain, anger, grief, and resilience.
Lost Lives, the book and the film, are both courageous efforts. While the immediate families and friends of the deceased forever carry their terrible experiences, so many told their stories. The book’s authors recorded the testimonies with sensitivity and produced a piece of literature unmatched in the world. The film’s directors handled this material with the same consideration and created something beautiful from sorrow.
Lost Lives will be screen at Queen’s Film Theatre from 11 October 2019. The 6.00pm screening on Saturday, 12 October 2019 will be followed by a Q&A with directors Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt.
Lost Lives will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland later this year and will be available on BBC iPlayer. The film was made by DoubleBand Films for BBC Northern Ireland, with funding from Northern Ireland Screen.