Hillsborough is a feature-length BBC film of the event of, and the events surrounding, the April 1989 disaster that took place during the FA Cup semi-final clash between Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool. Due to significant police errors, a crush followed in the two central pens of the Leppings Lane stand made available to Liverpool fans. These mistakes left 96 people dead and 766 injured.
The two hour runtime allows the documentary to explore the tragic day, its causes, and fallout, in considerable depth. Most pertinently, this involved changes to police staffing on the day — including putting the inexperienced Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield in charge of the match — and a remarkably similar crush that occurred in the same Leppings Lane stand eight years earlier in another semi-final game between Spurs and Wolves.
“I feel almost guilty for feeling so devastated after only two hours.”
The film also dedicates extensive time to the police cover-up after the match, and the incessant efforts of senior officials to refuse to admit culpability and blame the fans for drunk and disorderly behaviour. Since it was only last month that victims’ families heard the verdict that their loved ones had been unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police, I feel almost guilty for feeling so devastated after only two hours; just imagine if that happened to someone close to you, and for you to then have to deal with such injustice for 27 years.
Over the course of the documentary you’ll struggle to not feel intoxicated by anger and despair as you listen to the accounts of those that were there on that day. A near minute-by-minute retelling of the day is supported by moving first-hand accounts from victims, their families, and average police officers. One fan within the pen recounts the last moment he saw his father alive as he was swept away by the swelling throng, and an ex-military police officer recalls the day in which his fellow officers found him to have wet himself in the midst of a mental breakdown.
“[IT] shy away from showing the disturbing images of the aftermath.”
Hillsborough doesn’t shy away from showing the disturbing images of the aftermath, as innumerable arms and legs are splayed and contorted in every direction, some of the bodies belonging to those as young as ten. Neither is it allowed to dominate the film; instead, the anger and protracted pain and eventual triumph of the victims and their families take centre stage in a complete, thoughtful and harrowing film of the darkest day in British sport. Essential viewing.