It was not until the 80s that the contextualised docudrama achieved any real presence on our screens again. The genre was picked up, not by Loach and Garnett, but by Leslie Woodhead and others at Granada. Their declared aim was ‘to recreate as accurately as possible history as it happened’. They used captions to supply the provenance of the information from which the programme develops. Among them were ‘The Man Who Wouldn’t Keep Quiet’, ‘Strike’ and ‘Why Lockerbie?’
Of these Granada docudramas, ‘Hostages’ achieved a degree of notoriety. It was a portrait of the experiences of a group of British people who had been taken hostage in an Arab country. The film had no major thesis to propose except perhaps that the kidnapping of British people by Arabs is not a good idea. In the final analysis, it was raportage, based on real life stories.
Unlike what happened with ‘Cathy’, the notoriety came before the show whereas Cathy’s came after. Public discussion was about whether the film was an intrusion into the privacy of the people it portrayed rather than any issues it championed. The show did not win a particularly large audience.
Among other Granada docudramas, the Hillsborough programme, a reconstruction of a tragic event at a football stadium, was repeated once. ‘Who bombed Birmingham?’ was also repeated. It was about the ‘Birmingham 6’ who had been wrongly imprisoned for a terrorist bombing. These innocent people are, apparently, in no doubt that the public outrage produced by the programme was the principal reason for them being released from prison. I am told that Ian McBride, the director, has a poster gratefully signed by all of them on his office wall.
On other channels, Linda La Plante’s docudrama ‘Trial and Retribution’, about serial murder, was claimed in advance publicity to be hard-hitting and accurate since it was based on extensive research. This claim was invalidated by a stern caption at the end proclaiming that the film was entirely fictional.
The TV docudrama ‘No Child of Mine’ directed by Peter Kosminski, about child abuse, fouled its own credibility by inconsistencies in the factual provenance its makers proclaimed.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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