"Ceasefire Massacre" Leaves Viewers Unclear about Loughinisland Massacre
ESPN 30 for 30’s “Ceasefire Massacre” is a documentary about the 1994 Loughinisland Massacre that occurred during Ireland’s opening match against Italy during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The premiere of this documentary drew much intrigue to me because of my unfamiliarity with the historical conflict that was happening in Ireland at that time.
The film informs the viewers about the Troubles, the social conflict in Northern Ireland between the unionists who favored union with the United Kingdom and the nationalists who favored independence. While viewers are informed that political tension has plagued Northern Ireland, the film does not help the viewers see the significance of this struggle.
Why was allegiance with the United Kingdom (or independence) such a serious issue? Viewers are left with some unanswered questions and are thrown to the scene where the Republic of Ireland, coached by Englishman Jack Charlton, play a crucial World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland. The documentary briefly details that Ireland’s selection of an Englishman to manage their national team was quite shocking, but the significance of this detail does not resonate to viewers unfamiliar with the political landscape.
After the film highlights Ireland’s qualification match, the viewers are then led to Ireland’s opening 1994 World Cup match where they upset Italy 1-0. The film does describe how the match was a joyous occasion for Irish fans that were able to put aside politics for once and cheer on their country.
However, tragedy unfolded when a loyalist group called the Ulster Volunteer Force stormed into a bar in Northern Ireland and killed innocent civilians who were watching the match. While the film featured interviews from those present at the bar and the horrors they witness, enough to draw viewers to empathize their loss, it still fails to tie into Ireland’s World Cup run.
In fact, the film tells viewers that Ireland struggled the rest of the World Cup, but it never quite captures the remorse that the players felt during that time or how it affected their locker room.
Moreover, the film doesn’t give viewers enough information to digest about the terrorists and how it was possible to this day that the motive behind the murders remains unanswered. A mention of a conspiracy was made, but the film glosses over it like a blur that the story behind this theory feels incomplete.
The story could have been as powerful as the “Hillsborough” documentary that was released two weeks ago; the re-telling of a historical event unfamiliar to American audiences that glues them in emotionally. I
Instead, director Alex Gibney shows the viewers a Wikipedia-like summary on screen regarding the Loughinisland Massacre, leaving them emotionally unaffected by the tragic event and unable to see the connection between the World Cup and the intolerable acts of terrorism that transpired.
This was an opportune moment to educate the American audience about a tragedy and political conflict very few are familiar with, but this film failed to deliver the message that needed to be shared.