ESPN Soccer Stories: Ceasefire Massacre (2014)

Directed by Alex Gibney

Alex Gibney, whose documentary filmmaking has won him an Oscar, is one of the names in the 30 for 30 series which gives it quite a bit of legitimacy, especially when his first entry, Catching Hell, was so well received as one of the series best. Like Errol Morris and his series of short films in the ESPN catalog, Gibney’s films show that a high level of filmmaking can be brought to the concept of the sports documentary. With Ceasefire Massacre, Gibney shows his prowess for picking explosive stories, and delivering their narrative with the right amounts of tenderness and explosiveness. What I quickly learned from Ceasefire Massacre was that I am not up on my Irish history, and really should know more about the volatile situation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In many ways, this film is similar in tone and impact to Hillsborough, which kicked off the Soccer Stories series of films. The great tragedy is surrounded by a big soccer game. In this case the game is Ireland beating Italy in the opening game of the 1994 World Cup; the tragedy is a massacre at a local pub in Loughinisland which killed 6 and wounded 5 more. The inextricable link between the two events, apart from Ireland, is that those killed were enjoying the Ireland victory when the gunmen entered the pub. To be exact, the massacre occurred at roughly halftime of the game. It is a very sad and unfortunate coincidence that these two things would be so intimately linked in history.

Gibney shows an interesting follow up to the previous film in Soccer Stories, The Opposition, which explores the undeniable link between national pride and horrifying events at home which recalls the agony of sports. There are many highs and lows in sports with teams on top of the world at one moment and the bottom of the barrel the next. But what Ceasefire Massacre shows us is that the highs and lows of life overshadow those of sports. I cannot imagine how hard this event would have been to live through, and how representing Ireland in the World Cup in 1994 would have affected me, a mix of pride and shame, wanting peace and victory, potentially being denied both.

***1/2 – Great

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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