Sir Steve McQueen warns his unflinching film on Grenfell Tower disaster will leave audiences ‘disturbed‘
Sir Steve McQueen is warning his unflinching film on the Grenfell Tower disaster will leave audiences “disturbed”.
The Oscar-winning ’12 Years a Slave’ director shot his movie of the burned out husk of the high-rise flat block from a helicopter – just before its charred remains were shrouded in white plastic emblazoned with a giant green heart – as a stark reminder of the brutal destruction the building represents – and of the fact not one person or firm has been punished for their role in the 72 deaths in the inferno there on June 14, 2017.
McQueen told The Guardian he wanted to use the 24-minute film, soundtracked only by natural noise, to ensure people didn’t get “want to let people off the hook” when it came to the reality of the tragedy.
He said: “You must understand that the violence that was inflicted on that community was no joke.
“I didn’t want to let people off the hook.
“There are going to be people who are going to be a little bit disturbed. When you make art, anything half decent... there are certain people you will possibly offend. But that is how it is.”
The filmmaker added about his technique of starting the film by putting the block in the context of its surrounding landscape of greenery and football pitches: “I wanted to put the building in perspective of our everyday (life.)
“It’s not isolated. That is important because (the viewer is) put it in the perspective of yourself.”
The British director, who grew up in the White City estate near the North Kensington Grenfell block, has held back until now on screening the film.
He now hopes its upcoming public screening from early April will help the push for justice before the sixth anniversary of the tragedy.
Instead of being set to words or music, McQueen’s footage is based on his camera swirling around the block.
It also features close-ups of the building, letting viewers see inside rooms where people died, while white-suited forensic investigators sift evidence.
McQueen’s project involved extensive consultation with the bereaved, survivors and neighbours, and comes as the Grenfell community still awaits the findings of the public inquiry that began almost five years ago.
McQueen said he “sat on” the film after it was shot as he believes it “couldn’t have been shown within three or four years (of the blaze.)”
He added about his technique of circling the block: “It’s about the building and suspending it in time.
“And looking. Holding, holding, holding.”
The 24-storey Grenfell block burned for 60 hours, and as well as the 72 victims killed in the blaze, two later in hospital, more than 70 were injured and 223 escaped.
It was the deadliest structural fire in Britain since the 1988 Piper Alpha oil-platform disaster and the worst UK residential fire since World War Two – with experts branding the cladding around the high-rise a “silent killer”.
McQueen said about the disaster: “It was deliberate neglect. It was no accident. There were so many people, so many companies, so many factors – it was all a deliberate act of neglect and, to a certain extent, greed.”
The director whose films – including ‘Hunger’ about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands – have consistently tackled social injustice and poverty.
He added when asked if such work left him weary: “Tired? Oh my God no. It’s the reverse. It gives me energy. Justice gives me energy.
“Truth gives me energy – it needs to be shouted from the highest rooftops.”
McQueen’s ‘Grenfell’ documentary will be exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery, London, from April 7 to May 10.