Over three years on and the tragic memory of Grenfell still burns in the nation’s mind. And what action has been taken? Not a lot, as it transpires. We’ve heard the what and we’ve heard the how, but now it’s time to ask why such a catastrophe was able to happen.
Grenfell: The Untold Story, shot by Constantine Gras, the building’s Artist in Resident a couple of years before the tragedy, is a heart wrenching exposé on the inner failings of Grenfell, shining a searing light on just how avoidable the disaster was.
The most harrowing part of the documentary is watching, as Carol Midgley points out in The Times “previously unseen footage of the residents, some of whom would later die”, putting the audience in a direct stream of conversation with “voices from the grave”. This hits particularly close to home when watching eight-year-old Mehdi El-Wahabi, excitedly talking about his home, which he would later find himself trapped in, left to die along with the rest of his family. Truly heartbreaking stuff – not for the faint-hearted.
It is impossible to watch this documentary without a lump in the throat, and its hard-hitting content makes it far from easy viewing, but this doesn’t detract from its cinematic substance which leads The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan to describe it as “a beautiful film about the most awful of subjects”. She goes on to discuss how the film taps into the narrative of “television as democracy, seemingly the best way ordinary people have of getting themselves heard”, a growing trend in documentary filmmaking which gives underrepresented voices a platform, and audiences the seats from which to hear them.
+ Read our review of Steve McQueen’s devastating documentary series, Uprising.
The Telegraph’s Anita Singh describes Grenfell: The Untold Story as “a programme that demonstrated the power of documentary film” and here at Must we couldn’t agree more. It’s a film which demands to be seen and remembered.
First shown September 2021