THE LIFE AFTER

BBC | Irish Film Board 2018

Producers: Alan Maher, Brian Hill, Niamh Kennedy

Director: Brian Hill | Niamh Kennedy

Official Festival Selection: Galway International Film Festival, Hay-On-Wye Festival 2018

Theatrical Premiere: Bertha Dochouse, Curzon July 2018

THE LIFE AFTER is a poetic, intimate account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, told through the stories of a handful of people who lost loved ones during the conflict. It’s not the story of the politicians or the terrorists. It’s the story of the mothers, sisters and daughters who kept life going when everything around them was crumbling.

The Life After marks not only the 50th anniversary of the start of the Troubles but is a timely reminder of what could be at stake when the still fragile peace comes under new pressures, in the event of a hard border following Brexit.

From 1969-2001 3,532 people were killed and 47,541 injured as a result of the Troubles. Many of these were civilians caught in the crossfire as conflict and murder became part of the daily narrative. A steady succession of British and Irish politicians made promises, looked for solutions, formed unlikely alliances and wondered privately what could possibly be done to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Politicians and diplomats around the world strove for a solution, and even American presidents felt compelled to get involved.

Interweaving archive footage and contemporary interviews with poetry by Nick Laird, the women who lost loved ones during the Troubles tell their story…

Although the film explores profound grief, it is far from being depressing or gloomy. We learn through the film that people have triumphed over personal tragedy and made good lives for themselves.

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The Life After, the ninety-minute documentary that looks into previously untold stories from Northern Ireland between 1968 to 1998, weaves five personal stories together.  The voiceover intones, “Behind each headline is a broken heart; behind each story there is a mother.” It’s a poetic response to war, loss, suffering, pain and its aftermath. Going from a series of colour clips of riots in 1969 to pictures of Lansdowne Road in 1994 following the murder of John Joseph Molloy, it charts the lives of those affected by the thirty years of war.

“What is involved after the last bomb goes off?” asks the voiceover, “Someone has to think of the long story clearing up.” In fact, what Hill and Kennedy deal with is those left behind. The film treats the subject of suicide, alcoholism, violence and death in pockets of verse written by the Irish poet Nick Laird.

Despite its complex context, it’s a film that subtly manages to bypass the minutiae of the politics in order to shine the light on the collateral damage. “Justice doesn’t rhyme with peace so, no, you can’t have both,” says the voiceover. “There’s not a family in Northern Ireland that hasn’t got issues,” says Sharon Austen, the sister of murdered Leonard Winston Cross. The subtitles read: 3,532 were killed and 47,541 were injured in The Troubles.

For the audience at Hay today, this was not an easy film to watch. And yet, an element of hope shines through in the determination of the families to tell the stories of the loved ones they so tragically lost. “No one is forgotten anymore,” the verse reads.