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Daniel Gordon's "Hillsborough" Dispels Lies

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In light of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, ESPN’s "30 for 30" broadcasted their first entry of the soccer series “Hillsborough”, a gripping documentary that not only focuses on the tragedy, but the ongoing aftermath that plagued friends and family members of the 96 that died.

Majority of ESPN’s "30 for 30" documentaries have done a great job tying sports with the greater themes in life and “Hillsborough” is no different; however, the film serves to be more of a crime documentary than a sports one. That alone should not deter people from watching this powerful film. Whether you are familiar or unfamiliar with the Hillsborough disaster, it’s recommended for educational purposes to watch this film and see the important lessons the world can take from this tragedy.

On April 15, 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest FC, the game was cancelled due to the overcrowding that occurred in the Leppings Lane stand of the Hillsborough Stadium. The huge commotion turned out to be worse than what sportscasters originally thought as fans started climbing over and breaking down the fence to get onto the pitch for breathing space. What looked like a scene of overcrowding transpired into a tragic crushing as 96 people lost their lives and 766 more were injured.

Daniel Gordon, director of the award winning sports documentary “The Game of Their Lives,” did a marvelous job in telling the whole story about the tragic incident that occurred. While a good 45 minutes was spent detailing the moments leading up to the incident and the disaster itself, the remaining hour of the film unravels the more compelling plot--the victims’ family members fight for justice.

Through the interviews of those present at the crush, relatives of the victims, and police officers at the scene, Gordon shows how the feeling of helplessness has haunted those at the incident to this day. It wasn’t through what the subjects said that reflected the horror; the long pauses during their speech and the horrid look on their faces when they draw back memories of the incident tells it all.

The heartbreak of this documentary doesn’t stop there; Coroner Stefan Popper’s allegation and investigation that the fans’ drunkenness caused the disaster, not the police lack of preparation, added salt to the emotional wounds of those affected by the tragedy. The accusation not only hampered the reputation of the Liverpool FC fanbase, but more importantly the victims of the disaster.

Drawing much of the source from Phil Scraton’s investigative book on the disaster, Gordon brings up various myths and lies that surrounded the tragedy and uncovers the truth that hindered the ongoing investigation to bring justice for the 96 who lost their lives. By following the family members’ 20-year fight to clear the victims of any wrongdoing, it was obvious to the viewers that the ludicrous actions by the South Yorkshire police left deeper scars in those affected by the incident.

Even if you’re not a Liverpool fan, the course of this documentary would make you sympathize with those affected by the Hillsborough disaster. The tenacity of the family members during their 20-year long trial, shown through the interviews, can connect the viewers to the story emotionally. Gordon’s linear narration and his use of interviews, footages, and dramatization make the film easy to follow and isolate non football fans or non-Liverpool fans from the story.

The next time you enter a stadium to watch a match, be thankful for the changes that occurred after the Hillsborough disaster. The 96 who lost their lives serve as a key reminder as to why crowd control and security are necessary for the safety of spectators at sporting events to this day.

Justice for the 96. YNWA