Based on a true story, the film Official Secrets, that was released last October, was screened in the Boiler House of Newcastle University with an important character of the film and journalist, Yvonne Ridley, invited to watch the film and discuss with the audience afterwards.
The Civic Journalism Lab that was launched by Newcastle University and its director, Ian Wylie, delivered this cinematic experience in the University Campus, on Wednesday 4 March.
The film, directed by Gavin Hood, is based on the true story of Katharine Gun (played by Keira Knightely), a GCHQ whistleblower who secretely passed information to the Observer newspaper, unveiling dirty campaigs conducted by the intelligence agencies of the US government of George Bush and the UK government of Tony Blair, attempting to mislead the public about Iraq war that started with the invasion of March 20, 2003.
Well-known journalist Yvonne Ridley came in Newcastle University yesterday to watch the film with us. After the screening she told us of how she experienced the real events back on the day. She also confessed that when she received that document from Katharine, containing confidential governmental information, she felt that it was too good to be true and she thought that she had been set up.
“Two millions marched against the Iraq war in London. When I got the secret document in my hands I thought that out of all the news organisations, The Observer would be the only one keen to publish it, that’s why I gave it to Martin Bright. But that meeting where I gave him the secret document didn’t take place in an underground parking as it is shown in the movie” she told the audience.
The Observer’s journalist Martin Bright, who received the secret governmental information from Yvonne Ridley and wrote the story, is portrayed in the film by Emmy awards nominee Matt Smith (The Crown, Doctor Who). Yvonne Ridley is played by Hattie Morahan (The Bank Job, Mr. Holmes).
After the story came out by The Observer, that the Iraq invasion was based on false and misleading claims by the US and the UK government, Katharine Gun was accused of breaching the act of official governmental secrets and information by sharing that confidential document. The film follows her journey from the first time that she discovered that information until her trial.
In presenting her personal thoughts after 17 years, Yvonne Ridley told us:
“That document, probably, would have prevented the Iraq war if it was uncovered earlier and thousands of lives would have been saved. The film clearly shows the relationship that Britain always had with the United States, concerning matters like that one”.
After the screening she didn’t mince her words and told us:
“I am still so angry with Tony Blair! He still hasn’t been held to account for Iraq war and a lot of people still believe in his words and support him…He still hasn’t made a proper apology!”
Yvonne Ridley was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan on 28 September 2001, and held for 11 days, while working for the Sunday Express.