‘Hillsborough’ is an in-depth, moving account of Britain’s worst sporting disaster in which 96 men, women and children were killed, hundreds injured and thousands traumatised.
Beginning with that fateful day, April 15th 1989, the film details the horror of the tragedy, told through the experiences of those directly involved: fans, survivors, family members and police officers. Many speak publicly for the first time.
It captures the horror of the crush on the terraces, revealing the prejudices held by the police towards football fans. It exposes the police commanders’ abject failure in leadership as the tragedy unfolded, and their deceit and determination to deflect responsibility for their failures in crowd management onto those who survived.
‘Hillsborough’ exposes the lack of dignity shown to bereaved families as they arrived in Sheffield to identify their loved ones laid out in body bags on a gymnasium floor. It considers the impact of the orchestrated vilification of fans in the media and, as a consequence, their public condemnation. Interviewing those involved, it recounts the 27 year campaign for justice fought on behalf of the 96 who died.
15th April 1989 is a day that will live with me forever. I remember exactly where I was when I found out about Hillsborough. It chilled me to the bone. And it haunted me because – like all football fans who went regularly to games in that era – like so many others, I knew it could have been me.
I’m a Sheffield Wednesday fan. This disaster occurred in my team’s stadium.
I went to watch Wednesday home and away, rarely missing a match. But I wasn’t there on that day; it was an FA Cup semi-final, a neutral ground hosting two clubs from outside the city.
Hillsborough had a long tradition of hosting FA Cup semi finals - something we as Wednesday fans were proud of. Our team was never that great but in those days our stadium boasted a 54,000 capacity.
So many of those who died, like me, were young. They arrived in Sheffield full of hope, full of expectation. Yet, unknowing, they arrived at turnstiles and walked onto a terrace not fit for purpose.
Back then, football fans corralled by police as they arrived in town, herded to matches, penned by fences on crumbling steps, caged by high, spiked fences. We rarely questioned our treatment by clubs we loved, or by the police who controlled our every move - before, during and after matches.
Hillsborough was a wake-up call. Soon after, standing at matches was outlawed in the top divisions of English football. New stadiums were built and others modernized. The old ‘First Division’ was replaced by the heavily sponsored Premier League, with its glitz and glamour, round-the-clock coverage, world stars on Hollywood wages. But it came at a massive price.
I set out to make ‘Hillsborough’ as the definitive film of the story, from the day itself, the horrific tragedy that unfolded, through the 27 year campaign for truth and justice waged by bereaved families and survivors.
I was well aware of the suffering of the bereaved and the survivors but I was staggered to learn first hand of the indignity endured by the families on the night of the disaster after they had travelled to identify their loved ones. I cried during the interviews – and I still cry at each viewing.
I hope that ‘Hillsborough’ might respond to the scurrilous myths and ill-informed assumptions that were purposefully promoted to protect the interests of those responsible. In England – and especially in my home city of Sheffield – the causes of the disaster remain contentious and unfounded. This is the direct consequence of false allegations made by the police, politicians and an often hostile media in the immediate aftermath. It shaped people’s understanding, played to their prejudices, until the powerful 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel Report finally exposed the myths and manipulation of those in authority.
A new inquest into the 96 deaths began on March 31st 2014, 25 years after the Disaster. Initially expected to last nine months, the ten person jury heard evidence for almost two years.
‘Hillsborough’ concludes with the jury’s verdict.