Belfast Telegraph

Evocative documentary brings a world at war into sharp focus

By Joe Nawaz

I'm not ashamed to admit that I blubbed a bit while watching The Man Who Shot the Great War.

If anything it was relief, as the death of Ethel in EastEnders was finally bumped as my most recent tearful telly moment.

This moving documentary wasn't just objective on the horrors of the "Great" War, but a beautifully intimate - excuse the pun - snapshot of a remarkable Belfast man. A keen photographer, George Hackney set off for the trenches in 1915 armed with something more than a sniper's rifle. The photos he took are startlingly candid, with the almost visceral chill of hindsight to them. Like the detached, mechanical eye of George's camera, we were given space to assess the enormity of the loss, without being instructed as to what side we were to root for. It was telling that post-war, George appeared to root for the side of humanity and compassion over patriotic extermination. Heck, he even joined the hippyish Baha'i community. Ian McElhinney was excellent as the older George, poring over events long past, reliving horrors and remembering friends.

Seeing the remarkable pictures as he went over the top at the Somme with the rest of the Royal Irish Rifles - you can understand why the army forbade unofficial photography. The pictures spoke for George more concisely than this private man might have done himself, this film gave George himself long overdue and tender recognition.

Belfast Telegraph

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