“It’s not what is in a newspaper that counts, its whats not in a newspaper that counts”. Terry Smith (compositor in the film)
” It shocked me just how people who are loyal to the company for years can be vilified and cast aside when management and company priorities change from a profitable company and happy workforce – to focus on shareholder value and bigger profit”. Morag Livingstone, Director.
“The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence — is profit.” Rupert Murdoch
Belonging: The Truth Behind the Headlines.
Having been born and brought up in Bonnyrigg, I was naturally always aware of the surrounding working mines, The Lady Victoria Newtongrange, Monktonhall Millarhill and Biltston Glen Loanhead and although none of my family were personally involved with the miners strike, it did not diminish the feelings of solidarity we felt toward our friends and neighbours. In fact it was during this time that I first became aware of food parcels being collected, not for a far off Nation but for the workforce beside us who felt they were left no choice but to strike for their jobs.
This documentary revisits the strikes starting in the 1980’s, the roll of the police and the subsequent changes being made within our society, in no small part due to the successive undermining of the Unions in the United Kingdom being made by Governments in conjunction with big business, making us ask questions of our values.
The documentary focuses on three disputes, Ineos at Grangemouth 2013, the privatisation of the Royal Mail 2008 and The Wapping printers/News International dispute 1986/87. It goes into great detail allowing us to see the facts as they were presented to us at the time, and leaves us questioning what we can and can’t believe in the future, with regard to the information we are fed daily through the mediums of television/radio news, newpapers and even Government.
Particularly harrowing for me was watching Ailis describing the vilification of her dad Stephen Deans by not just the media but by the very people that Ailis believes should have been protecting herself and her Dad; the Government. Stephen who was ultimately exonerated not once but twice by the police still believes that mud sticks and you can see his lived experience written all over his face.
I asked debut director Morag Livingstone what the thought process was behind the film:
“There was no thought process behind the film really, at least not initially – I learnt as we went. Belonging The Truth Behind the Headlines is my first feature documentary – in fact it is the first film that I have directed / produced and made that didn’t originate from a client or when I was studying. Previously I had made shorts, campaign films, training films and films that raised awareness or funds. I did make one short film as a personal project in 2005 with the unimaginative title “Living with Low Income in Scotland” which formed part of my Masters Degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.”
She then went on to explain that building and not abusing trust is the cornerstone of her work which would explain the frank and open interviews which take place and leave you feeling in a small way that you have shared in their life experience.
She speaks also of “how beneficial it is to work with people who are more experienced and did know what they were doing! So that’s what I did because at the beginning of this film – I didn’t even know what cameras were suitable for cinema and TV – but these are things you can learn and if you work with people who know more than you on this – then you can have confidence in their work – which I did and do.”
“Knowing what I know now, not just in terms of what we reveal in the film, but in terms of what goes into making an in-depth and independent documentary, or to undertake fact checked investigative journalism – makes me realise how much I’ve learnt about that too! I would do it again, but differently – so a double learning curve I guess”.
I also asked what her influences were and how long it took to plan and make the film:
“I generally have Prime Ministers Questions on in the background every Wednesday and I heard the Prime Minister say, albeit under parliamentary privileged that there was “a rouge trade unionist at Grangemouth, who nearly brought the Scottish petrochemical industry to its knees”. I physically turned round. I used to work in the oil industry in Aberdeen and London so I new this couldn’t be true – no one in that role would have that much power.” She knew: “it didn’t make sense. When I looked at the media coverage I could see that hardly anyone was really asking questions of the company, or government for that matter. I wanted to know more”.
“Even members of the UK government were calling the workforce “industrial terrorists” and government seemed to side with the company, or were increasingly silent when the company announced closure of the Grangemouth plant. My understanding was that government should be neutral – I now know that was naive of me, but in my defence – this belief was based on the knowledge base I had at the time, which in turn came from newspapers I read and the news channels I watched. I looked at a wider range of newspapers, and online blogs, the press releases from the trade union – and I could see there were these two opposing views and for me things didn’t add up: If Stevie Deans (the rouge trade unionist) was such a bad man why were 800 plus people willing to risk their livelihoods for him? The company had threatened to shut Grangemouth down and yet the trade union was being blamed? I was confused and I like things to make sense. When I started the research I soon found that it was not just Grangemouth where the management turn on their workforce in the name of profit. When I started asking questions, and meeting trade unionists, I heard similar stories repeated across the country and it shocked me just how people who are loyal to the company for years can be vilified and cast aside when management and company priorities change from a profitable company and happy workforce – to focus on shareholder value and bigger profit”.
“It was hard at times, but genuinely not as hard for me as what those in the film went through – I felt, and still feel, a huge responsibility towards those in the film – not least because many had never spoken to the media before – but they trusted me. This trust was overwhelming at times, especially when I doubted my ability to get this done, and done well. Sure I had a great team, who were all subcontractors – but so many people had put their faith and trust in me – from those that made the introductions and vouched for me, to those that told me, on camera, things they had not discussed publicly before”.
“So while the initial inspiration for the film was Prime Ministers Question Time the inspiration to keep going became every person I met and spoke to, and who put their trust in me”.
The film which ultimately took from November 2013 to May 2017 to be made can be seen at:
The Pheonix Cinema, Pickaquoy Road, Kirkwall, tele: 01856 879900:
Special Screening plus Director Q&A –
Belonging: The Truth Behind The Headlines
Reported on by Helen Armet