June 14, 2005
Shot in vérité-styled camerawork and natural lighting, Omagh is a hauntingly powerful, illuminating, and uncompromisingly rendered account of the August 15, 1998 car bombing of a high-traffic market square in the peacefully integrated Northern Ireland community that massacred 29 civilians and injured over 200 others. Shot from the perspective of Michael Gallagher and his family, an automobile repair shop owner who lost his son and business partner, Aidan, the film is a taut and indicting account of the surviving families' frustrated quest for truth and justice for the atrocity. Engineered by radical separatist groups (most notably the breakway faction calling itself "Real" IRA) at the height of delicate, politically sensitive negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British government as a desperate means to undermine the Good Friday Peace Accords, what emerges from filmmaker Pete Travis' scathing, but sensitively realized portrait is a disturbing tale of ordinary people repeatedly entangled - first, in a protracted war for sovereignty and subsequently in a high-stakes game of diplomacy - in a compromised (and perhaps, irreparably doomed) investigation mired by national security intelligence failures, bureaucratic incompetence, and, most insidiously, a systematic pattern of stonewalling from all levels of public authority in the sacrificial name of national and political expediency to protect government informants and covert operatives within the radical organizations from exposure, prevent the collapse of the brokered cease fire, and continued push to move the peace process forward. In the end, what emerges from the families' commitment to the memory of their lost loved ones is the resilient voice of human solidarity that refuses to be silenced, victimized, or reduced to political pawns.