The worst sports disaster in the history of England occurred on April 15th, 1989 in Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield during a semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. During the match, overcrowding in a pen lead to an alarming number of deaths. Daniel Gordon’s documentary Hillsborough recounts the story of this disaster, its causes, and the decades-long denial of justice to the men and women who literally had the life crushed out of them due to gross negligence, mismanaging of crowds, and an improper emergency response.
Hillsborough combines interviews with those close to the disaster and re-enactments with actual video footage (both closed-circuit security tapes and television feeds from the time). Whatever technique Gordon uses to tell this story, the result is incredibly effective. He’s able to instill a growing sense of dread in the viewer as each tumbler responsible for the tragedy falls into place. As the crush starts, the camera’s view narrows and darkens, exposing the spectator to a meager sampling of the horrible claustrophobia and powerlessness of the victims involved in the disaster.
But the true power of Hillsborough lay in its careful deconstruction of the response to the events. As the police in charge of crowd control had thoroughly failed in their duty, the higher ups decide to unleash the spin machine in its full force. As the event is unfolding, television announcers are told that rowdy and drunken Liverpool fans had broken an exit gate and rushed into the pen. Later, every victim’s blood alcohol level would be taken – and then published in the newspapers.
From the outset, those most responsible for the Hillsborough sought to place the blame on victims. This film reveals the terrible thoroughness of such victim-blaming, and the decades-long fight for “Justice for the 96”.
Saturday, June 10, 6:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Canadian Sport Film Festival website.