“When you watch the unfolding tragedy intercutting with the victims’ stories, the overall feeling is one of injustice”
COUNTDOWN TO DISASTER
Distributor Avalon Distribution
Producer Avalon Factual
Length 6 x 60 minutes
Broadcasters History; A+E Networks (UK)
This documentary series came out of a desire for Avalon to deliver a piece exploring social history in the latter part of the 20th century, according to the indie’s factual chief executive Jamie Isaacs.
“Many disaster enquiries reveal that the causes of the tragedy occur many decades before, and each one becomes a nuanced story of politics and social change,” he says.
Each self-contained episode explores a different tragic event, including the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, the King’s Cross fire, the Munich Air Crash, the Zebrugge ferry disaster and, most recently, the Grenfell Tower fire.
The series uncovers how some of the disasters had complex origins. The Ladbroke Grove rail crash, for example, was the result of a combination of emerging technology, privatisation and budget cuts to driver training.
The Hillsborough episode, meanwhile, shows how survivors have led the way when it comes to future public inquiries. It illustrates how, with the benefit of time passing, it is possible to examine what changes these disasters can usher in.
The series was commissioned before Grenfell, but last year’s tower block fire was a prime and powerful example of a tragedy that had roots in social history and housing policies made decades before.
The series – which shuns re-enactments in favour of experts, personal testimony and archive footage to illustrate the stories – is forensic in its detail, but also emotive.
“When you watch the unfolding tragedy intercutting with the victims’ stories, the overall feeling is one of injustice,” says Isaacs.
In the UK, the series is currently airing on History as James Nesbitt: Disasters That Changed Britain.
Avalon is also bringing the show to Mip as a format, hoping that the opportunity for other countries to tell their own stories will have international appeal.
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