Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And if you’re still checking back, Martin, my apologies for my unclear phrasing.

Martin McGartland of Fifty Dead Men Walking calls for a correction

Posted in Film by Hank Sartin on August 31st, 2009 at 4:04 pm

As editor of the film section, I get some pretty unusual phone calls, like a reader asking about when a movie is coming to Chicago or a guy who made a movie in his basement assuming I’ll want to write an article about him.

But today’s phone call takes the cake. Martin McGartland, in hiding from the IRA for 20 years, just called me for a correction.

Who is he? McGartland grew up in Northern Ireland in an area where the IRA held a lot of power. McGartland was approached by British Intelligence, who knew that he was of interest to the IRA. (Note my cautious phrasing here.) McGartland joined the IRA as an infiltrator and relayed information to the British. Eventually, the IRA worked it out and McGartland had to go into hiding. He has been living in hiding from the IRA for 20 years. Attempts have been made on his life. He wrote a book about his time in the IRA called Fifty Dead Men Walking.

The book was made into a film, also called Fifty Dead Men Walking. I reviewed the film last week. My review, unfortunately, starts off thusly: “As IRA terrorist and British informant Martin McGartland, [Jim] Sturgess…” You can see the problem from Martin’s point of view; I’ve made it sound like he was a terrorist who became an informant. Wrong order of events. He went in under instructions from British Intelligence.

Therefore, Martin called me to ask for a correction. Um, holy shit.

He was very pleasant and polite (”I’m not trying to make any trouble for you, but you have to see this from my point of view…” he said several times) and I was apologetic. We chatted a bit, just long enough for him to restate his point a few times and mention that he’s trying to get another book published, so any public reference to him matters, especially when it makes him sound like he was a terrorist first. Boy, did I feel bad. So, our review online will be corrected, and I’ve asked for a correction on our letters page. And if you’re still checking back, Martin, my apologies for my unclear phrasing.

By the way, Martin also did a very interesting phone interview with our colleagues at Time Out London, in case you want to read his about larger issues with the film Fifty Dead Men Walking.

Link here;- http://www3.timeoutny.com/chicago/blog/out-and-about/2009/08/martin-mcgartland-of-fifty-dead-men-walking-calls-for-a-correction/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Skogland angrily refutes McGartland’s claims, though she admits she did consult ex-IRA members when researching the film, and accepts that ex-Republic


Is 'Fifty Dead Men Walking' (Film) really based on truth? 'No, its's as near to the truth as earth is to pluto,' says Martin McGartland.


Is 'Fifty Dead Men Walking' really based on truth?

Martin McGartland, whose memoir forms the basis for 'Fifty Dead Men Walking', talks to Time Out about how he believes he's been inaccurately portrayed in the film
Last week saw the release of the film ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’, a thriller adapted from the book of the same name by Martin McGartland, a working class Belfast boy who became both a respected member of the IRA and an informer for the British secret service. McGartland has been living in hiding for the past two decades, during which time he has been tracked down and shot twice. So it came as something of a surprise when he contacted the Time Out offices to discuss his reactions to the film which, he asserts, crucially misrepresents some episodes from his life story.

‘The best way I can explain it in basic, blunt terms, is it’s as near to the truth as Earth is to Pluto,’ McGartland insists. ‘If a film is loosely based on someone’s life story, how does the audience know what’s true and what’s fiction?’

McGartland cites various specific incidences where the film strays from his version of the truth. ‘I have never drank in my life, I have never smoked in my life and (actor) Jim Sturgess is in pubs getting pissed all the time and smoking cigarettes. All the stuff about me getting shot in Canada, I’ve never been to Canada in my life except for a brief holiday. I never lived there. And I certainly was not present when a suspected informer was interrogated and murdered. That made me so angry.’

But for McGartland, this isn’t just a case of creative licence. ‘Not only is there sympathy for the Republican movement (in the film), but the director, Kari Skogland, has done some kind of deal with the IRA whereby she has allowed them to be consultants and also, this is on record too, they’ve actually been on set when the film was being made, which is unheard of. How can you make a film about the IRA when they’re standing watching over your shoulder?’

Director Skogland angrily refutes McGartland’s claims, though she admits she did consult ex-IRA members when researching the film, and accepts that ex-Republicans were on set during shooting. ‘But so were the army!’ she argues. ‘They were there at the same time. Everyone was getting along, it was really very important, the army was there, the RUC was there, everyone wanted me to get it right, to have a very authentic view. While I would not want to suggest the IRA had any influence on the film because they didn’t, I certainly had to go to people to make sure that if I’m portraying them I’m not portraying them from some Hollywood, ill-conceived, stereotypical perspective.’

She also asserts that she offered McGartland an advisory role on the film and held numerous conversations with him during shooting. ‘I spent hours talking to him, and recognised that he had quite a distinct agenda. I felt because he had such a passionate perspective, his intention would have been to make it a political document, that was not the intention of the movie. This was not an agenda-oriented film. I listened and I was very respectful but at the same time I couldn’t let his voice change the dynamic of the picture that I knew was a truthful story of what it is to be an informer.’

Whatever the respective merits of their conflicting views, the incident highlights the responsibility filmmakers bear when telling real-life stories, particularly when their subjects are alive and eager to speak out. McGartland is concerned that the film will now be the only way people remember his contribution to what he views as a righteous cause.

‘I’ve been kidnapped by the IRA, jumped out a window to save my own life. I’ve been through the mill and back again and I accept all those consequences as a result of what I do… I didn’t want any control over the film, I just wanted them to do it in a fair way.’

Author: Tom Huddleston