Anyone that has been paying attention knows a Tory government that continually takes money from the poor and gives it the rich is where we are now. The worst cost-of-living crisis in fifty years. More children taken into care by local authorities grows year on year, while central government takes away funds for caring (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/23/the-guardian-view-on-looked-after-children-time-to-join-the-dots). Just watch the programme and shut up, some folk will be saying. I did and I’m angry because things have got worse since the race riots of the 1980s. We lost the propaganda war and the fictional Leon’s graduate from children’s homes to adult prisons with monotonous regularity.
I read Kit de Waal’s novel (and had a look at my notes afterwards) so I know the plot is where you bury the bones of fiction. Who are you? What are you?
Shola Amoo gets to play god with another writer’s lifeblood. Her story is Kit’s story, which is Leon’s story (actor, Cole Martin). He lives in Birmingham with his mum Carol (Poppy Lee Friar). Carol is white. Leon is eight-years old and not white. His baby brother is white. Leon has to take care of the new baby and his mother. None of this is right.
Their local-authority foster carer, Maureen (Monica Dolan) brings love and stability into their lives. In the book, she is black and Leon thinks of her as elderly. In the adaptation, she is white.
‘Is it cause I’m black?’ Ali G used to both ridicule and get a rise out of white authority figures in the nineteen-nineties.
Leon asks the same question when his baby brother gets taken away and adopted. The unfunny answer is yes. It is because you’re black as Jackie Kay (Scottish author and poet laurate) tells the reader in her memoirs, whose Communist parents took not only her, but her brother not in an act of heroism, but of love. Brexit is also a constant reminder of the hate we’re fed from an early age. Leon’s age also worked against him, social worker Salma (Shobna Gulati) explained to him. Adoptive parents, generally, want babies and puppies, not baggage.
When worn-out Maureen gets sick, her sharp-tongued sister, Sylvia (Olivia Williams) steps in until she gets better. Leon finds his father-figure on his bike. Following Tufty Burrows (Malachi Kirby) on his racer to his plot, where he grows Leon up to the black boy he needs to be, rooted in fellowships and black culture. If life was that simple, I’d grow two of them like horns.
There’s a contradiction Fergal Keane suffers from Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) but he’s in Ukraine. He’s on the frontline. He’s been there before. Cutting his teeth in the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. He’s been in South Africa and Rwanda.
The British journalist, Linda Melvern (2000) A People Betrayed, outlines the role of the West, NATO, and the international community, which stepped aside in 1994 and Rwanda’s genocide with over a million dead. She outlines here reports of victims from a peace-keeping mission:
‘They left the Bangladeshi crew with the Armoured Personnel Carrier, and walked into the church gardens. It was there they found the bodies. Whole families had been killed with their children, hacked by machetes. There were terrible wounds to the genitalia. Some people were not dead. There was a three-month-old baby, the mother raped and the baby killed with a terrible wound. There were children, some with their legs and feet cut off, and their throats cut. Most of the victims bled to death.’
Keane witnessed this genocide. We saw footage of children in the back of a truck fleeing and being stopped at checkpoints by murderers with machetes. They were waved on. The cameras and Keane’s presence probably saved them. He sought a reunion with a child refugee from that convey in London. He should have perhaps asked her what she thinks of Boris Johnson’s latest publicity stunt—away from Ukrainian war washing of his reputation—of sending refugees to Rwanda.
Keane admits booze helped him over the next hill and the hill after that. He had nightmares of being trapped under bodies. His body too was shot with anxiety; yet, the next high of war work was addictive as any drug. That was his job. That was who he was. Working for the BBC was a blessing and a curse. He was suicidal, but he was treated with dignity and courtesy. All of the middle-class job virtues we wish poor people were allowed. He met with his therapist in The Priory. Her treatment was unconventional and involved mimicking deep-sleep patterns by rubbing and tapping his hand. But then too so was Rivers in Pat Barker’s first-world-war trilogy (The Ghost Road). His therapist’s treatment worked for Keane, but he could never be cured, and only hope was to stay sober and grounded.
There was an interesting aside about stress patterns being inherited, from generation to generation. His grandmother taking to the bed as the Black and Tans committed murder in the name of preserving law and order. Fergal Keane as a special correspondent was there when duty called. He’s put himself back in the line. For many others with PTSD the choices are narrower. And there are no easy answers that don’t involve investing more money in health care.
All life is a choice. And if you want to succeed, you’ve got to commit yourself. Be single-minded. Duty is more important than love. That’s what I was trying to teach my children. The achievement at the end of it is, I feel, my life which I’m continuing to live to the full. And will so, until the day I die. I would have left the world a slightly better place. By having lived in it, and influenced my children in the right direction.
If you are part of the 1% that own pretty much everything and everybody then there’s nothing new happening here. Robert Maxwell, media mogul, father of nine, double agent, triple agent, traitor or spy? Like Richard Nixon he bugged his house and workplace, trusted nobody. Stole around £400 million from the Mirror Pension fund. Committed suicide or murdered?
After Robert Maxwell’s death his assets were sold to pay off his debts. His sons, Kevin and Ian, were involved in the trial of the century (until the youngest member of the Maxwell family Ghislaine was involved in another trail of the century). Both brothers and their sister pleaded innocence. Kevin and Ian were acquitted. The jury accepted that, even with their father dead, money continued to be siphoned from pension funds. This was not illegal. The prosecution Queen’s Counsel explained it was too complex for little people to understand.
Jeffrey Epstein understood that rich people don’t pay tax. That was his business. Robert Maxwell had dealings with Epstein. Ghislaine was described as his partner. But his preference was for much younger girls. Ghislaine helped procure young girls for sex and servitude. She helped destroy lives, but denied it and played the victim card.
Epstein was jailed for minor sexual offences against young girls. The justice system allowed him time off for being a billionaire. It facilitated more offences and showed the gulf between rich and poor. Laggard, the FBI followed behind civil cases brought against Epstein. Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in custody. In a Congressional hearing, the question was asked, was he on suicide watch. ‘Yes.’ Like Robert Maxwell, murder or suicide?
Ghislaine went into hiding. Her brothers argued the state had a duty of care towards her. She was no threat and should not be remanded. Her victims demanded their day in court. She was convicted on all counts. Her defence counsel cost around $7 million. Of course, they are appealing on her behalf. With time off for good behaviour, she should get out in time to die. The bankrupt Maxwell family will have to find the funds they claim they never had.
Prince Andrew cut a deal with his accuser Virginia Roberts. Ghislaine had tutored her like the other girls not to speak unless spoken to, and to have sex with the Prince. She complied. He denied. He cited a phantom hand that may or may not have been his in a photograph that was certainly him and certainly her, but he didn’t remember when or where. Currently frozen out of Royal duties he awaits public amnesia to match his private amnesia. His friend Jeffrey Epstein didn’t want billionaire paedophile to be written on his tombstone. Paedophile Prince isn’t something the British press is speaking about. Money talks.
Content of Maxwell’s home in Oxford sold off. Knocked down for the public. [episode 2]
600 lots from barbecue forks to antique paintings.
Sotheby’s. Place absolutely packed. People wanted a piece of memorabilia.
Malcolm Gordon (Antique dealer). I came across this lamp. When I lifted this (shade), I saw that, microphones. He was recording everything that was being said about him. This was in his own home. So he wanted to know what his son’s knew. Tells you the true story of the man.
5th November 1991.
3 hours since Maxwell found dead.
Ian Maxwell. It’s a particularly sad moment because this paper his lost its publisher, its owner and its saviour.
Kevin Maxwell: Love him or hate him. He touched the lives of many, many millions of people. And we’re determined to continue in his tradition.
Body recovered off Tenerife. His family gather on the island.
Ken Lennox, Mirror photographer. I was in the island to help the family. A couple of journalists had appeared. Ghislaine Maxwell spoke to them.
Buried Mount of Olives. ‘Dear Dad speech, (Ian) soldier, publisher, patriot, warrior, globe trotter. Father of nine children. Grandfather of eight.
Maxwell’s mysterious death. The king is dead. Long live the king.
Did he jump or was he pushed?
Mike Tully, Maxwell’s special assistant. The thing he was most scared of was being bored. The notion of him going aboard alone…I think he did go with the intention of killing himself.
Maxwell family rule out suicide.
Autopsy said it was probably a heart attack.
Was death foul play?
Were intelligence services involved?
Carol Bragoli, Mirror Group Secretary.
It was flying around it could be Mossad. But, you know, it could have been anyone he had dealings with. Defaulted on payment or to bring pressure on. It could have been anyone.
Bronmen Maddox, Financial Times Journalist. Breaks the story of the Maxwell empire collapse. [Management: we’re fucked.]
I was 28, the year Maxwell died, 1991. I had grounding in the numbers. And often the numbers are public. He was mortgaging his assets.
How much debt? And how it was represented. I’d say like Russian dolls, But that was too neat. These were all over the place.
I was ready to go public. Around £1 billion in assets. Owed £3 billion.
5 hours after Maxwell’s death.
Kevin and Ian Maxwell, seen as the brave sons, trying to cope with the loss.
Tip off leads to Mirror raids.
Police swoop on Maxwell’s offices.
Carol Bragoli. I remember the serious fraud squad coming in. I walked in there one morning and they were thugs. The whole thing turned nasty after that.
Ghislaine. I don’t feel diminished. I’m extremely sad my father is no longer here. But I don’t feel in any way smaller, or less than I was before. I’m me. I’m healthy. Very lucky. And survival means many different things to different people. Survival in my case means getting up in the morning and figuring out a new life. Smiling and being happy. The positive side of things. Life is sad. Very sad. It’s always sad when you lose a parent. But you have to go on. I like to think I’d do something positive. I can’t say what it is right now, because I’m working on it. Until I’ve done it. Then everything it just words.
Q Don’t you feel insecure? About the future.
A: No, I’m lucky. I get to start again.
Vassi Chamberlain, former friend of Ghislaine:
During the 90s, a friend invited me to a party he was having in his house, in Soho. Downtown. And there were lots of people there when I arrived. And I went to sit at this long table. And there was Ghislaine. We looked at each other. And, oh, yeh, we’ve met before?
I’d met her a year previously in London. The thing that marked her out was how extraordinarily friendly she was. How instantly she said her name. She made you feel included. She was very popular because she was charming. And she was opinionated. And she was funny. This was a different version of the girl I’d met a year previously. A shrunken version. Like she couldn’t quite believe what had happened to her.
Christopher Mason, former friend of Ghislaine.
She invited me over to her apartment. She was talking about her father and was convinced he’d been murdered. She was extraordinarily well-connected, but there was no money. Everything had been plunged into chaos. I told Henry (Kissinger) just watch this space. Come back in a year and watch this space. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be interesting.
4th December 1991 Serious Fraud Office has begun to investigate management of pension funds at Mirror Group newspapers. About £300 million of pensioners’ money could be missing.
Fraud office discovers bombshell.
Ken Lennox, Mirror photographer. Within 3 or 4 days the headline was Maxwell had stolen all the pension money. The whole thing was surreal.
Brownwen Maddox, Financial Times. What became clear very quickly was it was a fraud. And it has happened very fast. Within the last 10 months of Maxwell’s life.
Network of his management holdings very complex. The fraud very simple. Maxwell just took the money. Cash in his companies. Shares in pension funds. He did have the power to legally take those shares and sell them off. On the assurance the money would come back. That never happened.
Beverly Guest, wife of Lawrence. Finance director who tried to act as whistleblower, but silenced.
Suspected something when the Mirror group was floated. Noticed £38 million missing from accounts.
John Pole, Head of Security. (Speaking in 1996) Maxwell was already one step ahead of Lawrence. (bugged phones). Maxwell had an expression, ‘Trust was like virginity. You only lost it once’.
Certainly if a person was loyal, he would repay that loyalty. And he could be quite ruthless with people that weren’t giving his all, or where disloyal.
Finance Manager, Lawrence Guest was one of his targets (for phone tapping).
Was told it wasn’t his problem. Told auditors but was ignored. But as finance director of a public limited company he felt they had a right to know.
What he suspected was Maxwell was taking money out of the Mirror to pay off private debt for other companies.
Tip of the iceberg. Maxwell plundered more than £400 million. And nobody had the power to stop him.
Carol Bragoli. (secretary)
Told the directors were not to meet each other. Unless there was a Maxwell present. Himself, Ian or Kevin. And my bosses had these clandestine meetings. In which they were passing notes around and not talking. Because I found a few. ‘He knows that we know’.
By that time we knew something was going on. He looked a bit dishevelled. A button off his shirt. And his eating habits, were really, not very nice. He just seemed to think he could do what he liked (and he could). He was becoming very suspicious. He wasn’t trusting anyone. Just reflects on how paranoid he was becoming.
At the Labour Party Conference, Lawrence was advised not to travel by public transport and to travel by different routes every day. (Neil Kinnock).
Then suddenly it was clear one of them had to go. It was Lawrence or Maxwell. Now fireworks takes me right back to the relief.
Ghislaine: My father believed you’ve got to make your own way in life.
Christopher Mason. These were early days in New York. The only people I saw her with at the time were bright Brits, but the next time I saw her, she said she’d met someone staggeringly important. Jeffery Epstein and they were dating. And not only was she dating him. She was working for him. And her job included running all of his properties. The first thing she told you about Jeffrey was that he managed other people’s money and he wouldn’t take anyone worth less than a billion dollars. That was the kind of shorthand to let you know that he was fantastically brilliant.
Jeffrey represented access to private planes and yachts and wealth (like her father had). She would do anything in her power to please him. A bizarre echo of the dynamic between her and her father.
She never told me how she met Jeffrey. And we’re dying to know, now.
Vassi Chamberland. There is a photo. In the Plaza Ballroom. And sitting next to Ghislaine is Jeffery Epstein. That picture was taken 3 weeks after her father died. I think they were already friends. And Ghislaine went to New York to see JE. I’ve always thought to myself there was a reason the relationship was kept so secret. And I think it was in their interest this would never get out. I was working in the City and I had friends who worked in Wall Street at that time. And they heard that an agreement had been reached with Epstein and Robert Maxwell that certain funds had been siphoned off. Because that’s what he was doing at the time. Helping very rich people, park their money offshore to avoid tax.
When Ghislaine was on the boat (Lady Ghislaine) she found some papers were the name Jeffrey Epstein came up. She gave an instruction to the crew to shred all papers with her father’s connection to him.
2 months since Maxwell’s death.
New evidence in Maxwell fraud investigation. Movement of funds out of pension funds – after Robert Maxwell’s death.
Suspicion now falls on Ian and Kevin Maxwell.
Browen Maddox. There was a sense of drama. Kevin and Ian appear before House Select Committee and missing pension funds.
We will not answer any question regarding the pension funds. No matter how many questions this Committee asks this afternoon.
Silence of the sons.
Ken Lennox, Mirror photographer
Kevin and Ian were the two left standing. I got a phone call in Chelsea saying the cops were going to arrest Kevin. You know where he lives. So two plain-clothes cops arrive. Kevin opens the upstairs window and tells them to piss off. Kevin’s led out. Arrested.
Kevin: after a trial by innuendo, I’m looking forward to defending myself in a court of law.
In the run up to the trial he turns to the media. Invtites cameras to tell his side of the story.
Trial of Maxwell Brothers begins at Old Bailey.
Richard Lissack QC Presecution barrister.
The sheer size of the case was enormous. Portrayed in the media as the case of the century. I felt prepared and the allegations we made were sustainable.
Kevin spent 21 days in the witness box.
70 witnesses over 8 months.
Browen Maddox. The trial was complicated. And there was a worry that the jury might not understand the complexity of white-collar crime. So they broke it into pieces. Different bits of fraud. Lots of this was to do with the big picture. Movement of money out of shares, for example, weren’t illegal. Where only illegal if the person conducting the sale knew the money couldn’t come back.
Jury out in Maxwell trial.
Fifth day. No verdict.
Jury deliberation enters 10th day.
Jury out, 11 days. Reached a verdict. Not guilty. (could have spent a decade behind bars).
Christopher Mason (New York) I was at an art opening and I ran into Ghislaine. She seemed in a froth of excitement. I’m going to introduce you to Jeffery. What I noticed was a permanent smirk. As if he had access to information and funds you couldn’t possibly fathom.
And the next time I met him was a deeply weird situation. Ghislaine hired me to write a song for Jeffrey Epstein’s 40th birthday. But she was deeply insistent I could tell nobody about this. I could only talk to her. She would provide me with the information. It had to have these lines. Ghislaine claims he had 24-hour erections. When he was a school teacher at Dalton School, he was the subject of many school-girl crushes. She seemed to know that would resonate with him. And with his friends who would be at this party.
So I arrived at this house. Six guys, his closest associates. It was after dinner, and they were smoking cigars and drinking brandy and I had to do this song for Epstein.
At the time there was a rumour he liked younger women and Ghislaine was introducing them to him. At the time it seemed naïve. Later, sinister.
Palm Beach, Florida.
Kevin Reynolds. JE’s masseur.
I’m sure you’ve got a lot of people that won’t talk to you. But I can’t change the past. This is humanity. This is the way people look the other way. I worked for the New York City police department for 10 years. And you’d think I’d been more savvy as a retired cop. Shouldn’t I have known better? I don’t have an answer.
They’d send a boat to send me out to his island to do massage. It was a nice gig. It was quite a place. Dreamy. To die for. Just a beautiful, beautiful place.
Jeffery was a nice fellow. There was no reason to be suspicious in any way. There was a woman there running around taking care of all sorts of details. Only to find out later that was Ghislaine.
There was a young girl there. I showed her a few moves how to do massage. Based on what I know now, she could have been under 16. That young lady might have suffered for many years under the control of Ghislaine and Jeffrey. I’d like to say, I’m so sorry, I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t know, or I chose not to know.
29th November 2021. Trial of the Century (again).
New York City v Ghislaine Maxwell. (she allegedly spent $7 million on her defence)
Recruiting young girls to be sexually abused by her now dead partner, JE.
David Boies, Victims’ Lawyer. A case of sex trafficking that destroyed the lives of countless numbers of young women.
People are fascinated by how they got away with it for so long.
Sigrid McCawley, Victms’ lawyer. One thing you don’t to do it allow the suspect back into the street.
Robert Maxwell, Happiness can only be found in hard work. Service to your fellow man. And to your country.
20 years earlier. 2001.
Society Queen charms New York City.
Couri Hay, gossip columnist. My job is to go to parties. I meet people. See what they are doing. See what people don’t want me to see. Because there’s always something going on. I was discovered by Andy Warhol at the tender age of 16 or 17. He gave me my first job. And I started interviewing celebrities. I’ve met everybody. And done a lot of snooping. And I found if you just listen. And people knew you were a storyteller, they found you.
Back in the 90s I was working for …magazines. And that’s when I first me Jeffery and Ghislaine at parties. When she was in a room, she wanted you to know she was in a room, so she performed. She was on. She was effervescent and I felt she knew she was being watched.
JE was another case. He was a bit shy. He didn’t really stand out. So she fulfilled the role of his social director. Almost like his social secretary.
Her little black book was everything to her. And she dealt in the commerce of introduction. She really was a connector. She had this invisible butterfly net. And she’d go out in the social scene in London and New York and she’d capture the beautiful people. The rich, the famous. The powerful. And she had this posh accent. She used her royal rolodex to do that.
Her big card was Prince Andrew. That was her main calling card. Royalty is somewhat unusual, so they all came. There’s no doubt Prince Andrew elevated JE and Ghislaine. It gave them a veneer. She’s in the royal court.
But we just didn’t know. People weren’t paying attention.
30th November 2021.
Day 2 of trial.
Prosecution call four women who were all under 18 and (claim) they were groomed by Maxwell.
Vassi Chamberland. When I think back to the girl I met in 1990 and you tell me this is where her story will end up, I wouldn’t believe you. Why would someone do this?
Why would she hurt other women? But I think you need to go back to the very beginning of this story.
Robert Maxwell was somebody who understood the weakness of people and played on them and used them. Life to him was war.
And from the moment he died. Life became to her, war.
Something twisted in her. She’d lost her father. Ostensibly, lost all her money(?) The shame on the family was huge. And I think she really felt that. I think she left England because she felt that shame. And she was trying to rebuild her life in America.
It’s almost as if she shed her old skin and put on a new one. It was all about being seen in the right house, with the right amount of staff. Flying on private planes. Going to private islands. She had to be seen as powerful. As somebody at the top of the tree. She had to win.
Palm Beach, Florida.
Spencer Kuvin. Victims’ lawyer. I remember it vividly. A young woman came in with her stepmother and told me what was an incredible story. About an operation in which other young women were being recruited as well as her. To be brought over to this mansion on Palm Beach, Island. She told me there was a wealthy gentleman on the island that was willing to pay these girls $200 -$300 to go and give explicit sexual massages. She was 14 when the incident occurred to her.
Palm Beach Police Department found literally tens of other girls that had been brought to the mansion and sexually abused. Young, very young girls.
Palm Beach Interview 2005.
Police officer. You’re not the only one he’s done this too. I talked to 30-odd girls.
Palm Beach is a very wealthy island. These are the top 100, sometimes in the world. To have winter homes. And I mean by that huge mansions. On a very exclusive and wealthy island.
And there’s West Palm Beach. Which is the main part of Palm Beach County. As you go from the water, out west, you have so much less wealthy individuals. You have people living in trailer homes. What we found was a lot of the girls came from this area. A lot of them had troubled youths. $100 or $200 meant a lot to them.
If a 50 year old man come up in Rolls Royce and ask for a massage, their defences are up. Even at 14, they know to run away. But when a very sophisticated attractive older woman with a British accent approaches and says, ‘hey, you’re beautiful, come back to the house. I know a man that if friendly with the owner of Victoria’s Secret and you would make a beautiful model and we’d love for you to come and pose for us.’
That 14-year-old girl’s defences that ordinarily are up are now down. This is a woman who knew what JE was going to do. She was bringing them into the mouth of the lion. She knew the abuse the girls were going to suffer.
Cape Town, South Africa.
I wanted to be quiet and live my life and forget about it. But I can’t forget about it. I’m tired of feeling ashamed, when I didn’t actually do anything wrong. And I know I’m one of the lucky ones. And I want to speak for the people that can’t talk anymore, you know.
I was just a young girl with hopes and dreams. And I thought, modelling, you know. One day this beautiful model came up to me and asked if I modelled. I said I’d just started. She said her friend owned Victoria’s Secret and did I want to meet him? Because he could help with my modelling career. And I said, oh, my god. All my dreams are coming true.
We went to show JE my portfolio. I walked into the room and sat opposite him. They said we definitely want to bring you over from South Africa to New York. They pay for my visa. I thought it was going to be the most amazing opportunity of my life. Then they said, pack your bag. We’re going to the Caribbean. I assumed it was for a photo shoot. So I said, immediately, yes.
It was the most beautiful place ever. The turquoise sea. When I first arrived there is was just me. I stayed in a chalet by the pool. I found all these disposable cameras. I took a few photos while I was there. Unusual artwork on the wall. This naked girl and this big walrus and it looked as if this walrus was trying to rape her. Very disturbing. He’d a lot of weird stuff. Pictures of naked girls everywhere. And lots of pictures of Ghislaine naked too.
When I first met Ghislaine I was told she was JE’s girlfriend. But I never seen them hold hands or kiss. Or give each other a hug, to be honest. It definitely wasn’t a romantic relationship.
JE really like watching movies. And while they were there another girl was brought onto the island. And while we were watching she performed a sex act on him. I was absolutely petrified. I was so young and hadn’t seen anything like that. I ran out of the room. And was just crying. I just didn’t know what to do.
There was no getting away. I was in a foreign country. With no cell phone and no money or means of communication. I just realised I was completely trapped. And there was nothing I could do.
Ghislaine was running the girls. And she’d also tell us when we had to go to his bedroom. We couldn’t say no. There was just no option. We didn’t want to make them angry. Nobody even tried to stand up against them. His bedroom was pitch dark and ice cold.
I just checked out of my body and let him do what he wanted, because I didn’t know what else to do. Tried to escape in my mind. That it wasn’t happening. Things happened there that scarred me so deeply, I can’t even talk about them. He fed off the terror. There was something about that he liked.
He was taking me back and forth over a year and a half. I was so broken; I just went along with it. I went along with anything I suppose. I was being ordered to his bedroom at least three times a day. By that time there was even more girls. I saw at least 60 girls. At least.
I was 20 when I was taken there. I was lucky, because I wasn’t as young as the other girls. It was just like a factory. He was running a machine and Ghislaine Maxwell was operating it.
People ask why I went back. No one disobeyed JE. Before he sent me home, he took me to his office and told me a woman had accused him of rape. He’d had drugs planted in her apartment and had her sent to prison. And then he said he’d my family’s name on a list. I just did as I was told, because I was petrified of him. Because of who he was. I knew crossing him would be a very bad idea.
I never felt OK after that. Everything fell to pieces. It’s very hard to understand. I’m still trying to piece it together.
16th Decemeber 2021.
Trial, Day 11.
After 2 weeks of evidence for the prosecution, it’s time for Maxwell’s defence. They will try and cast doubt on the victims. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you believe the victims or Ghislaine Maxwell, who has denied all the charges.
They are expected to try and paint Maxwell as a victim, herself.
Kevin Maxwell, press conference and goes on the offensive. Our sister has been in pre-trial detention for 522 days. She is in the care of the Department of Justice. You really have got to ask yourself in 2021 what are they doing shackling a 59-year-old woman in this way, every day. When she represents absolutely no threat to the community. And so what we are asking for is for them to live up to the duty of care they owe to an innocent person, who is presumed innocent, until a verdict comes in. Ultimately, the only one that can help is you guys, for it’s simply unacceptable. You wouldn’t want it to happen to your mother, your sister, your girlfriend. Enough is enough. This has got to stop.
15 years earlier.
Palm Beach, Florida.
Spencer Kuvin. Victims’ lawyer.
When you have a hunter, he’s going to go after the weakest in the pack. And that’s what JE and Maxwell thrived on. Hunting the weakest. In an effort to discourage them from talking, they thoroughly dug into the lives of these young girls. Some of my clients would tell me they had cars that were following them down the street. To and from school. They had vehicles that would show up late at night and shine lights into their bedroom window. They had random phone calls that were called at their homes. It was really unbelievable. So we reached out to the Palm Beach Police Department. And that’s when things began to really take off.
Police raid $18 million, Palm Beach mansion.
They went in, but found it highly like JE had been tipped off to the investigation. When they arrived at the home there were numerous things that were missing. Like security cameras and hard-drives for computers.
But there were certain things they were able to find and seize. Phone books and message pads. Numerous messages to young girls that were under age. Messages about how and when JE was going to be in town. What his schedule was. When they could come over to the house. Hard evidence of what was going on at home. And it was at that time that they put together what they felt was a very solid case to prosecute JE and to turn that over to the State Attorney in Palm Beach.
FBI investigates billionaire’s sex crimes.
There was a certain expectation that the feds would be able to spread out the investigation beyond Palm Beach, to New York and even his private island.
So there was a very great hope this would lead to JE behind bars for a very long time. If not forever.
FBI identify 36 potential victims.
Then all of a sudden I get a call, JE is at the courthouse and he’s giving a plea. No one had told me or my clients about this. No one had told the victims there was a potential deal in the works. It was shocking that JE’s lawyers went up to the judge and had a private conversation that nobody could hear what they were talking about.
I mean, there’s that sinking feeling as a lawyer that something is going on. And now it’s been hidden from everybody else.
I’ve been practicing law for 25-26 years and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an arraignment like that before.
JE pleads guilty to only 2 charges.
Under this deal he was supposed to spend at least a year in the County lock-ups in Palm Beach. But his lawyers applied for release during the day, so he could go to an office building. He would stay the day there and get catered lunches. People would come and visit him. Young girls. And at the end of the day he’d drive back to jail. And stay the night.
This is a man that is supposed to be behind bars for molesting and abusing over 40 young girls. He was essentially spending nights in jail. And that was about it.
It was incredibly disheartening at the time.
To have to explain to my clients, the extent to which the system let them down.
JE’s reputation hits rock bottom. But he’s released.
I knew exactly what people wanted. They wanted to be in the papers. They wanted to be in the glossy magazines. And I knew how to do it. And I could do that for them. The problem is sometimes these people get in trouble.
After the conviction, JE calls me. My office freaked out. It was embarrassing. I put my tie on and trotted over to the house. Because I wanted to see the house. This very grand house, supposedly worth $77 million. And there’s this very grand foyer, with this big curving staircase. I did notice about the house there was a lot of very heavy velvet drapes. Better to keep out the sunlight.
We sat down. He asked me what we should do. And I’d no intention of representing him and I never did. He never paid me.
He said to me what I don’t really want is to have ‘paedophile billionaire’ inscribed on my tombstone. Every story starts out with ‘paedophile billionaire’.
In some cases you just can’t do it. It starts with really showing contrition. Confessing. You know with the highest power on earth (The Pope).
Why don’t I get you an audience with the Pope?
But, of course, he’s already thought of that years ago (and had the meeting).
So why don’t you give money? There’s an art’s foundation and people have given lots and lots of money to, you know, white-wash their image.
So Ghislaine, of course, started her own charity. Potentially, or possibly, but she was really only helping herself.
‘Love the oceans. Love your planet. For generations to come—Make a difference’.
Charm offensive. But two lawyers unconvinced.
They were digging behind the public facades. Staggered by what they discovered.
Sigrid McCawley. Victims’ lawyer. The scale of the sex trafficking operation was unbelievable. They were bringing in up to three different girls a day at times. They did it everywhere they went. New York. Florida. Travelling overseas they would do it. It was constant. It never stopped.
David Boies, Victims’ lawyer.
They had people recruiting young girls from Eastern Europe. England and France. All over the world. We have two young women we represent, who were abused by the JE sex trafficking. They were both recruited within the same month.
One was recruited in South Africa. One was recruited in Los Angeles, California.
I was a young adult. Stars in my eyes. Ready to take on the world. High hopes. Big dreams. Once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m being flown out to New York. I would be met at the airport. A driver with my name on a sign. That was thrilling. You know…I’m to meet Ms Maxwell at her home. The outside is beautiful. And I knock on the door. I walk into this big, beautiful room. I notice a framed picture on the wall of her and ex-President Bill Clinton. And I thought, you know, wow.
A few moments later, out she comes. She said I was going to meet her partner, JE. She looked right at me and said, ‘Make sure you give Jeffrey what he wants. Because Jeffrey always gets what he wants.’
Ghislaine knew what was going to happen to me. She set me up to walk into a predator’s house. Where he assaulted me. She knew what was going to happen. You don’t facilitate and organise one of the largest sex-trafficking organisations in the world without intentionally knowing what you are doing. And without intentionally playing your role. And not only intentionally, but very masterfully. She did it very well.
Ghislaine Maxwell changed the entire trajectory of my life. And years later I decided I needed to do something . I began communicating with the FBI and my wonderful lawyer, Sigrid McCawley.
Lawyers file Civil Cases for multiple victims.
FBI re-investigate JE.
Thursday morning, I’d plugged my phone in to charge. And when I did, I accidentally swiped to the news headlines that popped up. And there was his face. It was Jeffrey.
Sex-trafficking and molesting underage girls.
To have him actually arrested was monumental. For me and the women I represent. That moment it felt really powerful. They’re starting to see the light of justice.
10th August 2019.
JE death ruled suicide. Hanged himself with a bedsheet in his Manhattan jail cell.
Senate Judiciary Jury hearing session.
Was Mr Epstein on suicide watch?
Yes, he was.
Clearly, it didn’t work here. We await the report. All the victims of Mr Epstein have their heart ripped out. Never see justice.
When JE died that was traumatic news for the women I represented. They had hoped to see him in court. To be charged with all the crimes he had committed. I was very angry that had been taken away from them.
Even before JE passed away. I was very hopeful prosecutors would continue to prosecute people. Including, of course, Ghislaine Maxwell.
20th December 2021.
Day 13 trial.
After nearly 3 weeks the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is drawing to a close. The defence and prosecution make their closing arguments. One of Maxwell’s friends it there to witness the final chapter.
Christopher Mason, former friend.
One hears about despicable crimes and terrible criminals. There’s an added lair when it’s somebody you know, or thought you knew, but never really knew. So it’s strangely compelling. If she’s been horribly misjudged and, you know, there’s some plausible explanation that she be found not guilty. Fascinating to see if that’s possible. Seems so improbable. Perhaps the truth will eventually emerge.
Fascinating day in court. And so, completely, what I was not expecting. When I arrived this morning, from everything I’d read I supposed Ghislaine Maxwell was going away for a very long time. But when the defence spoke, they did a very good job. I have to say I’m really shocked. It’s the last thing I’m expecting. To come away thinking that Ghislaine had some chance of evading…
Jurys have to decide what version of events to believe. We may get one by Chistmas. Which is Ghislaine Maxwell’s sixtieth birthday.
2 years earlier.
With Epstein confirmed dead. And the US authorities turning their attention to Maxwell, in the UK, the spotlight fell on one of her old friends, Prince Andrew.
Nigel Rosser, Journalist.
Ghislaine had always known Andrew. But in 2001-2002, she suddenly became Andrew’s best friend. I think they went on holiday together about eight times. It had been noted the Prince Andrew was partying quite a lot. I was a journalist on the Evening Standard, and was told there seemed to be something odd going on here, can you look into it. The more I looked into it the more I saw Ghislaine Maxwell was inextricably linked to these parties and holidays, Prince Andrew had gone on. They formed this very strong symbiotic relationship. My headline was ‘Andrew’s fixer’: ‘She’s the daughter of Robert Maxwell’. ‘And she’s manipulating his jet-set life-style’.
The more I got into it, the more I realised, JE was always in the background.
Q At 2000, JE was a guest at Windsor Castle. And at Sandringham he was brought right into the Royal (circle) family at your invitation.
Prince Andrew (cuts in) Yes, but, at my invitation. Not at the Royal family’s invitation. But remember it was his girlfriend that was the key element in this.
Nigel Rosser, Journalist
Prince Andrew for some reason allowed himself to be persuaded to succumb to a fifty minute interview. I remember thinking who has advised him to do this?
Q One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts has made allegations against you. She says, she met you in 2001. She dined with you. She danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London. She went on to have sex with you, in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?
Prince Andrew: I have no recollection of every meeting this lady. None whatsoever.
Q You’ve seen the photograph(s)? How do you explain that?
Prince Andrew: I’ve seen the photographs. I can’t. I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken.
Nigel Rosser, Journalist
The photograph is taken in Ghislaine’s Mews House. Ghislaine is to the one side, sort of grinning. You can see the flash reflected in the window. It’s almost certain the photo was taken by Epstein.
Prince Andrew (interview) I’m not entirely convinced…That is me in the picture…We can’t be certain that’s my hand on her…whatever it is, left side.
Two weeks later, Panorama. Virginia Roberts gave her account of that evening.
Virginia Roberts. He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there’s only one of us telling the truth. And I know that’s me.
Ghislaine Maxwell’s house, London.
That day we were having tea. Andrew is talking about Fergie, who is his ex-wife at that point. And Ghislaine is bad-mouthing Fergie, as well. Epstein is socially awkward so he’s just laughing about everything. I’m just sitting there. As I was told to do. Sit there and don’t talk. Unless you’re talked to. Ghislaine tells me I have to do for Andrew what I have to do for Jeffrey. And that made me sick.
There is a bath. And it led to the bedroom. But it didn’t last long. The whole entire procedure. It was disgusting. He got up and said ‘Thanks’ and walked out.
I sat there in bed and felt horrified and dirty and ashamed. I had to get up and have a shower. And next day Ghislaine tells me I did a real good job. Patted me on the back and said you made him very happy…[cries] It was a wicked time in my life. It was a really scary time in my life.
2nd July 2020.
Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire. Six counts of serial sexual abuse and trafficking of minors.
Maxwell jailed. Awaits trial.
29th December 2021.
The jury in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial has been out for five days. And there’s still no verdict.
If the verdict is not guilty, people will be very angry, but not surprised. I wouldn’t be surprised if she walks free.
It’s hugely important she gets found guilty, because the world is not a safe place with her in it.
Maxwell’s lawyer. We firmly believe in Ghislaine’s innocence. We’ve already started working on the appeal. And we are confident she will be vindicated.
Ian Maxwell (talking on Sky News)I’ve know my sister for sixty years. I choose to believe my sister’s view of events. I don’t think she’s capable of those charges she’s been convicted for. She’s been scapegoated from a system that was flawed from the start. She has not had justice.
Victims’ lawyer, David Boies
It’s been a long road. Longer than it should have been. There are many people who knew about this and kept silent. And could not have existed, in the scale it existed, in the time it existed, without the participation of very rich and powerful people. It was about money. It was about power. It was about [corruption]
Ghislaine Maxwell awaits sentencing. She faces a prison term of up to 65 years.
I never thought it would happen. These people have a way of getting away with [it] for so many years. We’ve got to keep them away so they can’t harm other people. And the people are waking up to the truth.
Why didn’t you take your positon of power and do something good with it? Why didn’t you do something positive in the world? What a waste.
My father believed you’ve got to make your own way in life. It would be marvellous to emulate some of the marvellous things he did with his life. That’d be great.
All life is a choice. And if you want to succeed, you’ve got to commit yourself. Be single-minded. Duty is more important than love. That’s what I was trying to teach my children. The achievement at the end of it is, I feel, my life which I’m continuing to live to the full. And will so, until the day I die. I would have left the world a slightly better place. By having lived in it, and influenced my children in the right direction.
Ophelia, based on a book by Lisa Klein, who is also a screenwriter here (my guess that gave her leverage to adapt her novel for cinema/television) tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from a woman’s perspective, in much the same way Tom Stoppard put centre stage other peripheral figures in the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
I’m not read Lisa Klein’s novel. And I’m not a great fan of Shakespeare’s plays, or theatre in general, which for some people marks me out as a bit of a thicko. And they may well be right. But I’ve speed read the play. I also watched Franco Zefferelli’s version of Hamlet, filmed largely in Scotland. Mad Max, Mel Gibson in the titular role of the Prince of Denmark. Glen Close playing his glamourous mother, with a hint of incest. Alan Bates played the murdering uncle and brother of the king, Claudius. Homer Simpson played my favourite version of Hamlet. Blue-haired Marge as Queen of Denmark.
If Ophelia was in verse such as iambic pentameter then it would have been curtain after five minutes. It starts rather with a more conventional trope, in medias res. Orphelia (Daisy Ridley) drowns herself, as she does in Hamlet. Time spools backwards to her childhood. A bit of a tomboy, she’s taken under the Queen’s wing (Naomi Watts) and made one of the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting.
She grows into a swan. So far, so conventional. She catches Hamlet’s eye (George MacKay) and they fall in love.
A secondary plot involves the Queen consulting with a witch to keep her beauty and aging at bay. The witch Mechtild (Naomi Watts with straggly hair) is also beautiful. Her backstory involves teenage pregnancy with Claudius (Clive Owen) who let her rot and burn rather than admit his own involvement and parenthood.
She might be in league with the devil with her potions, but she’s not in the league of Morgan Le Fey of Arthurian legend. Morgana Le Fey (Helen Mirren) in Excalibur. Merlin, Lancelot and King Arthur should have just given up and taken the knee in homage to such earthy beauty, as Claudius forces Hamlet, in the name of chivalric honour to bow to the new King of Denmark or commit treason.
I’m probably giving too much away, but if you’ve read Shakespeare or watched The Simpsons, you know Claudius gets his comeuppance. Ophelia? That’s for you to find out.
Described as comedy-drama, a biographical film about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the most powerful vice-president in modern history. There is a contemporary joke that nobody is ever called Dick, but that’s about it.
There is nothing funny about Vice. At a push, I could probably name most of the President since the first wold war since it mostly involves saying Roosevelt over and over.
Vice President can become Presidents. General Eisenhower and Harry Truman spring to mind. And if you take a circular route, Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon finally got his feet under the desk at the Oval Office. Most were in agreement Vice was no more than a token job. A bit like being the President’s wife. Good for photoshoots and opening fetes.
Kamala Harris’s power, in contrast, lies her ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in a split Senate. But really, she’s waiting for Joe Biden to die so she can step into a real job.
Robert A. Caro shows how Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) spiralled into depression when his attempts to control the Senate were rebuffed and his attempt to manipulate the new American President, and darling of the media, John F. Kennedy were swatted aside with a smile. The man that had once controlled Congress and Senate reduced to a comic figure that was left out of briefings in the new Camelot.
Vice follows the path of an American boy made good. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) telling him after a couple of drink driving convictions and barroom fights he was on the road to nowhere. He better ship up or ship out. He did both, while staying out of Vietnam and the armed forces on deferments.
Like LBJ, Cheney had a talent for politics. In one scene, he asks another intern what party guest-speaker Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) belongs to. When told he’s a Republican, he says he’s a Republican too.
When working for Rumsfeld as an intern he asks him Cheney what he believes in. Here’s the joke part of the film. Rumsfeld slaps him on the back and laughs so long and hard, the viewer knows it’s a joke. The purpose of power is power.
Realpolitik. Rumsfeld points to a closed door. He tells Cheney behind it is Nixon and Defense Secretary Henry Kissinger are having an unofficial meeting. When the meeting was finished tens of thousands of Vietnamese would die. Subtext. They are plotting mass murderer.
Drawing a line in the sand, Cheney gave his support to gay marriages since one of his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) came out as gay.
There were other shifting lines in the sand. He was a hawkish Secretary of Defense (1989–1993) following the precepts of the Eisenhower Doctrine—any (oil rich) Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. 1st August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait.
President George W Bush (senior) unleashed coalition (mainly US) forces in Desert Storm under the command of General Norman Schwarzkopf. February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been expelled from Kuwait in the ground war. With aerial dominance, they were sitting ducks.
[Not in the film, but worth quoting Cheney’s perceptive response to the invasion of Baghdad, in the first Gulf War: how many American dead is Saddam worth?]
‘Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.’
Vice Presidency (2001–2009).
We all know about what’s now called 9/11.
But if you asked me who the Vice President was at the time, I couldn’t have answered. The tone of the film is set early. George W. Bush (junior) (Sam Rockwell) is in the air metaphorically and literally when the planes hit The Twin Towers. Dick Cheney takes charge of the 9/11 fallout.
But Dick Cheney had always been—more of less—in charge. The coup that LBJ had attempted had failed, but Cheney was the real power in American politics. The dithering George W Bush President, but the Vice President pulling the strings. Ironically, the power grab going in the other direction. The American President grabbing more executive power as the Twin Towers fell. Extra-ordinary rendition. Repealing the Geneva Convension. Spying on American citizens.
The invasion of Afghanistan was payback for 9/11.
Payback for his old bosses at Halliburton Corporation by adding billions of dollars to shareholder value. The invasion of Iraq’s oil-rich fields with evidence from a list drawn up before Saddam Hussein was found to have mass weapons of destruction—he didn’t have and links to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida hidden network in the paperwork with the weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney, a hawk abroad, and conservative at home. No surprise with his fortune coming from a fossil fuel, Times 500 Company, he helped in the pushback for the ideas of global warming. He helped reframe the debate, through think-tanks sponsored by Times 500 companies as simply climate change, which sound much more palatable and less threatening. The kind of idea picked up the moron’s moron.
Cheney endorsed Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, but didn’t shut his eyes to how he got elected. Russian interference, or what he moron’s moron would call Russian help from their cyber networks, Cheney classified as ‘an act of war’. But he’d also have to have declared war on that American institution Facebook that cashed the cyber cheques made in Russia and created the images of hate that polluted politics (from a very low base which Cheney’s think-tanks helped fuel) and still does.
The film ends with the viewer finding out the narrator of the film is the man that provided Cheney with a new heart after his failed. I guess they should have saved it and given it to someone more deserving. But money talks loudest. Worth a look, but don’t expect to giggle.
I was around ten, big for my age, but not big enough to sneak into the La Scala and watch The Exorcist. The media warned us—don’t go. Rather than see it, there was talk of church boycotts and a spate of suicides. And those that did see it fainted, spewed up, or went insane. But my sister was made of stronger stuff. Jo even smoked and drank vodka. She wasn’t eighteen, but there was a buzz about the film that made it a rite of passage.
We heard, of course, about the highlights. Regan (Linda Blair) poking herself with a crucifix and her head turning back to front like a piegon while spouting green goo. This was a step up from Christopher Lee as Dracula, who hung about open windows, waiting for the lady of the house to arrange her negligee so her big boobs were showing, before inviting him inside to bit her on the neck and leave two pin-prick marks. It wasn’t safe to go to bed without a crucifix. Being Catholics, of course, we’d more crucifixes that the average American had household personal guns. And if my wee brother was sleeping, I could set him out as a tasty snack, with a big arrow pointing to the room next door, where my two sisters were more than a match for Dracula. Just let him try laying a fang on them.
The Devil, of course, was a different matter. Atheists could poo-poo the existence of ghosts, or use logic to prove that God didn’t exist, but you’d need to be mad not to believe in the devil’s existence. Wherever sex was, he was sure to follow. Ironically, the swinging sixties saw a surge in numbers to religious institutions. The Exorcist was a reminder of the good old days when good was good and evil was truly evil, and nobody abused anybody in their beds.
When, for example, Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) asks Father Karras (Jason Miller) to perform an exorcism on his daughter, he quips, that he could, but he’d have to find a time machine and whisk them both back to the sixteenth century.
Father Karras is having his own Dark Night of the Soul (St. John of The Cross) and doubts if he can continue being a priest. If he believes in God. This is centred on his Italian Mama, who is ill and lives alone. He thinks he should be caring for her in her last days. When she’s taken into hospital, his uncle, her mother’s brother, remonstrates with him there’s nothing they can do. They haven’t got the money for private care. He asks, Who’s going to take care of her? – you?
Father Karras has no answers, but as well as being a priest and psychiatrist, he’s a keen amateur boxer. Lt. Kinderman (Lee J Cobb) buttonholes him on the track. He’s investigating a strange death on a stairway, outside Regan’s window. Chris MacNeil’s boyfriend fell down those stairs, his head turned back to front. Father Karras might know something about that, he hints, some wayward priest with a grudge. After all, there’d also been the desecration of the church.
Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) brings the storylines together. The film begins with his architectural digs and ancient demons. When Father Karras tries to tell him about Regan’s medical history, Merrin tells him none of these things matter. He’s Peter Cushing’s Doctor van Helsing hunting down Dracula to his lair. Instead of a brace of wooden stakes in his hand: a worn Bible. Father Karras follows the formula: Good versus Evil. God versus the Devil.
The Prodigy (2019) a horror film directed by Nicholas McCarthy, and written by Jeff Buhler gives this formula a twist. A child at birth is inhabited by the soul of a Hungarian born mass murderer, who’d relocated to the United States. The battle for the body is the battle for the soul.
In The Exorcist this is shown graphically with the words ‘help me’ appearing on her abdomen, underneath the skin for her mother to read. Twelve-year-old Regan is innocent, but the devil has taken her.
We all know how it ends in a boxing match. Father Karras knocking the living hell out of twelve-year-old Regan and the devil inside her. ‘Take me,’ his invitation accepted. One for the other. Broken in body (Eucharistic rites: this is my body, broken for you), but time enough for Confession and repentance. The Catholic Church 1—0 Devil nil.
Watching the film, forty years later, you see how run down New York is. This is the Nixon era. There’s rather a corny scene when Chis MacNeil goes up into the attic to investigate what she thinks are rats. She has a torch, which doesn’t work. Instead, she lights a candle. The traps for mice lie empty. The candle flares up and just as suddenly goes out. The real surprise is the caretaker appearing, immediately, with a torch. That’s what you call service. Things were better in those days. Servants could anticipate your every need. They even knew when the devil was going to flare up and stand ready with battery power.
Roe versus Wade, 1973, the year of The Exorcist. Nostalgic religious porn. The rise of the religious right. The election of the demonic moron’s moron backed by the religious right. 2021, the squashing of Roe versus Wade. Peter Cushing or Father Karras, we need you to put one on the evil ginger quiff and pink-faced one spouting green goo and household cures by injecting common disinfectant? Evil lurks—still.
The format for this serious is simple, and it’s in the title. People who have been caught up in some traumatic, life-changing event, and some stranger has stepped in to help them. I’m sure I watched the last series, but can’t remember if I did. It’s a feel-good programme.
The cynical part of me suspects if an American documentary maker made this programme there would be supernatural elements, but the only angels here are real people. Anita Rani meets with Karl and Emina in the first episode and Marc and Peter in the second episode and does a bit of acting: Will we find these strangers, she asks? That’s like asking will Kylie and Jason Donovan marry in the final episode of Neighbours—of course they will—and live happily ever after?
Karl was in the train carriage where 26 people died on London’s Piccadilly underground line on the 7/7/2005 (another 26 died when a bomb went off on a bus). He was a student dancer, training to be a professional. After the explosion, he prayed to God to let him out, ‘I won’t be gay any more’, was his bargaining chip. God knew he was lying, because He was God, but He also had foreknowledge of the 7/7 bombings and that Karl would push past the stranger that held his hand and told him it would be alright, in his rush to escape from the carriage.
God would also know about the atrocities in Sarajevo during the Bosnia and Herzegovina war in 1992. He would know that a doctor would arrange for Emina and her sister, Edina, who required surgery and had Down’s syndrome to escape on a bus, taking young mothers and kids out of the sieged state to live in Birmingham. God would know that some of the older boys would be taken off buses and shot, and buried in mass graves. Buses would be blown up crossing bridges. But Emina and Edina and their mother would make it to safety. He would know that their dad made the right choice not getting on the bus, despite their mother begging him. And he too would join them in Britain. God would know Britain hates refugees—and poor people, in particular, even their own citizens that have the wrong colour of skin— but since this is a feel-good story, we’ll kid on we don’t. He’ll know that Anita Rani will go through the charade of not being able to find the paediatric doctor who now lives and worked in Holland.
God, despite hating gay people, killing them with AIDs, and in the words of former police chief of Greater Manchester, Sir James Anderton, ‘swirling around in a cesspit of their own making’ will know he’ll get the backing of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Brixton born black boy Marc will be diagnosed with HIV at the age of seventeen. Marc will find a saviour in a counsellor called John (Wilks) and a place of safety in the Landmark Centre. God will know that the Tories will unleash savage policies in the name of fiscal prudence which took money from the poor to give to the rich and shut off local authority programmes like Surestart and close places like the Landmark Centre.
God will know about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He’ll know about the Brexit border and every lie that Boris Johnson has told. Yet, God will know that the English voters found the little Trump to be good. He’ll know about Peter being shot in the legs by Ulster Protestant paramilitaries in 1979, and how his wife suffered post-traumatic stress disorder hit the booze and died young. God knows Peter will make it and have a pile of grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Peter will never forget the angel, a nurse called Betsy that pulled him through his darkest days in hospital. God knows Anita Rami will go through the usual hee-haw of being unable to find her, but then, suddenly, a chink of light. Ahhhhhhhhh…that’s nice.
In many ways this is George Clooney’s creation. He’s listed as one of the producers. Producers are the guys (and it is usually men) who get the money together to make a movie. Because he’s George Clooney he can do that kind of thing. Other people will fling money at him, because it’s a no-lose situation, a film starring George Clooney is bound to make money, and if it’s any good, it’ll make a lot of money, but the stars need to be aligned.
George Clooney stars with different haircuts and uniforms, but the same sugary smile he’s perfected over the years. His character Lyn Skip Cassady is ex-American army, and there are flashbacks to the time when the US military set up a shadowy organisation to create psychic warriors and conquer hearts and minds by making love, not war. Army maverick Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) led them to places they couldn’t have dreamed. Bridges re-jigs his role as The Dude, but in army military bases. But The Men Who Stare at Goats is much more fun than The Big Lebowski. I laughed aloud several times, and that doesn’t usually happen unless an old woman falls in front of a truck after jumping over a skipping rope.
We know all this because Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) tells us about his journey with Cassady on the road to enlightenment in an Iraq that is being liberated or conquered by American troops (depending on your point of view). There’s the realist tone Umberto Eco adopts in his masterpiece Foucault’s Pendulum with the ridiculous rubbing shoulders with reality. Cassady regrets, for example, under military orders letting his ego run wild, staring at a goat and stopping its heart. He admits that it might just have been coincidence, him staring and the bleating animal’s heart stopping, but he doesn’t believe in coincidences.
Cassady’s mission is so hush-hush, he’s not even sure what it is himself. He needs to find his former guru, The Dudeless Bill Django in a desert without road signs. The right road is often the wrong road as they are taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists. But that’s a mere blip in Cassady’s inner radar, as Bob Wilton makes the inner journey from sceptic to true believer.
Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) is our Judas and nemesis of free-love and free-wheeling Django and Cassady in the military and world at large. (This was before Spacey was publically shamed, some would see that as proof of the dark side. Other examples being the large numbers of cast members that died in strange circumstance after making The Omen).
Whatever—this is a great and fun movie. George Clooney has never been better as George Clooney, Ewan McGregor even gets in on the act. Well worth watching for Dude-less fans. Try it.
We all know about the meet-cute, when the main characters collide, and we know they’ll later have a romance. In Norah Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally, for example, Sally Albright (Meg Ryan’s character) is sitting waiting in a beaten-up Beatle car filled with junk to give a lift to Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) while he gives a prolonged snog to his latest has-been. Here Hannah Fiddel is more in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita territory with middle-aged literary professor Humbert Humbert having a sexual obsession with his stepdaughter, Dolores Haze, and English school teacher Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) having an affair with her pupil Eric Walker (Nick Robinson).
The first couple of episodes set things up. Claire Wilson arriving at Westerbrook High and Eric Walker and his school buddies looking on and saying how cute she is. But, of course, she’s ‘a teacher’ and they’re eighteen-year-old boys. They know the difference between fantasy and reality. Twelve-year-old Lolita, for example, has still a lot of growing up to do in comparison.
We’re a long way from Texas, but in Damian Barr’s autobiographic Maggie & Me, with Motherwell as a backdrop, he tells the reader how as a spotty sixth-year pupil, one of his teacher was giving him the heavy-come on. Prattling on about her problems at home and how her husband didn’t really understand her. Giving him a lift home. Does this sound familiar? She didn’t realise he liked boys. Perhaps that would have made a more interesting drama.
Usually, as we know, far away from News of the World type exclusives, around 99% of cases it’s the male teacher leching after the female student. Age does matter. Who does what to whom shouldn’t matter. But for this kind of drama, phew, every schoolboy’s wet-dream onscreen. You might want to watch how it develops and how the protagonists don’t live happily-ever- after over ten episodes. Two short and colourful episodes was enough for me.
Waleed Nesyif was a teenager when President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein just 48 hours to leave Iraq. He was, like many Iraqi teenagers at that time, infatuated by the West. But while many of his generation grew up enjoying songs by The Backstreet Boys, Waleed formed Iraq’s first heavy metal band. By comparison to the American movies Waleed and his friends enjoyed, life under Saddam was oppressive, fuelled by fear and paranoia. If war meant life would eventually be more like the way it was in the movies, then in Waleed’s words, ‘let’s get this s**t done’.
Omar Mohammed, a young Iraqi student in 2003 explains the difference between the Iraqi and the American soldier during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He thought they were Rambo. Nobody could defeat them.
For others, it was more complicated. Um Qusay, a farmer’s wife from a small village near Tikrit, was under no illusions about the cruelty of Saddam’s regime. That did not mean however that she wanted a foreign army to invade her country to dispose of him. There were benefits to living in a police state. The streets were very safe, and if you did not oppose the government directly, you were free to live how you wished. Life might not have been perfect, but many felt that a war with America would be something that Iraq would not survive. Sally was just eight years old when American troops entered Baghdad. She had been told to be fearful of them, but when a soldier offered her a sweet, she decided that the stories she had been taught at school about the foreign imperialist devils were wrong, as only good people could be this kind.
As the statue to their former dictator falls in Firdos Square, there is a real sense of hope felt by many Iraqis. Maybe, just maybe, Iraq would emerge a better country – perhaps even as one of the best countries in the world. That was the very real hope of Ahmed Al Bashir. Now Iraq’s most famous comedian, as a teenager in 2003, Ahmed was excited by the opportunity to speak English with real Americans, waving at the invading troops and inviting them into his house. From his hotel room in northern Iraq, photographer Ashley Gilbertson watched, along with the rest of the world, as Saddam’s statue was torn down. ‘I’ve missed the war’ were his initial thoughts. What he and many others did not realise at the time was that this was not the war. The war was still to come. The initial hope, felt by many Iraqis, would be tragically short lived once the realities of occupation with no postwar plan hit the streets of Baghdad
When Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman arrived in Iraq in 2003, his belief in the task ahead – of delivering democracy and stability to the Iraqi people – was unquestioning. Sassaman was an inspirational leader to his men, and many felt that he was destined one day to become a general. Six months into his tour, caught in the political and literal crossfire of the insurgency, his good intentions and belief systems were shattered. Unprepared for the hostile environment he found himself in, with little support coming from Washington and taking daily attacks from insurgents, Sassaman was pushed to the very darkest regions of his psyche.
Alaa Adel was 12 years old in the summer of 2003, when she too was caught in crossfire on the streets of Baghdad. She suffered life-changing injuries when she was hit in the face by shrapnel from one of the first roadside bombs, which were planted by insurgents and intended for American forces.
Looking back at that time, both Sassaman and Alaa question the benefits of the war in Iraq. While one struggles with the guilt of their actions, the other lives with bristling resentment and ongoing anger.
At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, over 600 journalists and photographers are given permission by the US government to follow the war as embedded reporters. Dexter Filkins and photographer Ashley Gilbertson are working for the New York Times when they enter Fallujah with Bravo Company in November 2004.
It is the most intense battle of the entire war and the biggest the marines have fought since Vietnam. For the duration of the battle, both journalists live with the marines, filing their stories as they are constantly shot at. Illustrated by thousands of photographs taken by Gilbertson that week, many of them never before published, as well as unseen material taken by the marines themselves, this film takes viewers into the heart of the battle. Gilbertson’s decision to capture an image of an Iraqi sniper shooting from inside a minaret changes not only his life but the lives of the soldiers with him.
Nidhal Abed has lived in Fallujah her entire life. On 4 November 2004, her two-year-old son Mustafa is running a high fever. She leaves her home to take Mustafa to the doctors just a few streets away. What happened next ensures their lives too are never the same again.
With unique archive of the battle itself, this story is told through the marines, journalists and residents of Fallujah
CIA analyst John Nixon is the first person to interrogate Saddam.
The emergence of ISIS concludes the legacy of the Iraq War. But it has begun before this by what David Armstrong describes as the Bush administration ‘Drafting a Plan for Global Dominance 2002,’ in response to 9/11, a strategy of threatening and attacking countries in pre-emptive strikes to prevent terrorism. ‘Iran would be next, then Syria, North Korea, even China…Sweep it all up’.
Felicity Arbuthnot, reports in Iraq: The Unending War 1998-99, humanises it by reporting on the case of Jassim, the Little Poet – R.I.P.
Until he’d been ill he’d been selling cigarettes in his home town of Basra, in northern Iraq. Bombed in the 1991 Gulf War and Desert Storm.
A six-fold increase in childhood cancers linked to the use of missiles and bullets coated with depleted uranium, which remains radioactive for 4500 years.
‘Iraq’s childhood mortality rate will go down in history as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century, alongside the Holocaust, the bombing of Dresden and the excesses of Pol Pot. Between 6000 and 7000 children under five are dying of embargo-related causes,’ said Denis Haliday, a former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN.
Jay Gordon, Cool War, Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction 2002, reminds us before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s government, despite the well-known mass murder of Kurds and Shi’ites would not have survived without substantial backing from the United States, especially with an expensive war with Iran from 1980-1988.
After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War, in 1991, the US secretary-general envoy predicted ‘imminent catastrophe’. Immediate crises in food, water, sanitation, and infrastructure. His report concluded with the suggestion of ‘epidemics and famine’. According to a Pentagon report that was the intention.
In the Oil for Food Programme, for example, around $170 per person per year was allocated. Around half the annual per-capita income of the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti. Less than the $400 spent on dogs UN used on de-mining operations.
The destruction of the fresh water system caused outbreaks of cholera and typhus, which disproportionately killed infants and children. Prior to 1990 around 95 per cent of city dwellers had drinkable water. By 1996 all sewerage-treatment plants had broken down, confirming the Pentagon report’s analysis. Thirteen percent of Iraqi children died before their fifth birthday.
Jassim, the Little Poet’s last written words, ‘Identity Card’.