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BBC NI to air documentary series charting remarkable stories from recent decades


A new documentary series exploring some of the most remarkable stories from Northern Ireland’s recent history has been announced by the BBC.

The Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland series promises a new perspective from top filmmakers on the good, bad and ugly moments of past decades.

This includes one of the biggest cash robberies ever seen in the UK, the reimagining of Derry City FC, how the car of the future was built in Northern Ireland and the tragedy of boys disappearing from the streets of Belfast in the 1970s.

The films are to be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland and BBC iPlayer along with a selection of some of the most popular documentaries from BBC NI’s archive.

Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC NI commented: “We are excited to bring this new season of documentary films this Spring, showcasing some of the most intriguing stories told by some of the best film storytellers around.

"The football team that brought hope to a city, the man who built the ‘Back To The Future’ car, the Heist which saw £26.5 million taken from the vaults of the Northern Bank and the sad tale of boys who disappeared on the streets of Belfast without a trace. These are stories which have global appeal but are unique to this place.”

The season kicks off on Monday, April 19, at 9pm with Different League: The Derry City Story, described as “the feel-good story of a community that needed to catch a break and how its football club Derry City FC, exiled from senior football for more than a decade, was brought back from the dead”.

After decades locked out of the establishment, four ex-players took on the football authorities to change the city and club forever.

Their eventual success later “unleashed a carnival of hope, pride and optimism on a scale that will never be forgotten”.

Next up is a two-part series, to be aired on April 26 and April 27, DeLorean: Back From The Future.

It charts John DeLorean’s “extraordinary and doomed” attempt to build the sports car of the future in 1980s Northern Ireland.

The programme gives a profile of “a buccaneering American entrepreneur” who had film-star looks, a famous fashion model wife and an enormous ego which saw him rival the giants of the US car industry.

A co-commission with BBC Two and Netflix, the new two-part series has been specially made for BBC NI using rare and unseen footage filmed by Oscar-winning directors DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Heist: The Northern Bank Robbery will be broadcast on May 3, telling the story of “the biggest heist in British history”.

Days before Christmas in December 2004, a complex plan to rob the Northern Bank in Belfast began with a gang taking two families hostage for 24 hours, forcing two bank employees to rob £26.5m from the cash centre.

With suspicion immediately falling on the Provisional IRA, the political crisis that followed threatened to derail a new and fragile peace process.

As the case remains unsolved 16 years later, two of Northern Ireland’s leading journalists - Darragh McIntyre and Sam McBride - team up to shed light one of the most notorious robberies in UK and Irish history.

Featuring interviews with the key players, they examine the difficult question of whether the robbery inadvertently helped the peace process.

On May 9, GONE: The Lost Boys of Belfast recalls how two young boys disappeared forever on their way to school in November 1974.

Thomas Spence (11) and John Rodgers (13) were never seen again, but their story tragically slipped through the cracks at a time when the police seemingly had no time to investigate.

Decades on, filmmaker Des Henderson attempts to solve the mystery with the help of criminologist Robert Giles, journalist Martin Dillon and investigative reporter Chris Moore.

Accompanying the release will be a treasure trove of some of BBC Northern Ireland’s best documentaries.

These include:

• Bullseye Belles - Documentary told through the lives of female dart players taking a hard look at inner city Belfast

• George Best – All By Himself – the feature length documentary of the football prodigy who became a global superstar

• Love and Death in City Hall – the story of the biggest things in life at Belfast’s City Hall

• Project Children – the story of vulnerable children travelling to America for a summer of peace

• Another Day – a True North film which revisits families in Belfast 20 years on from the Ceasefire

• The Miraculous Tales of Mickey McGuigan – The first ever True North which examines the traditional worlds of folklore and magic

Belfast Telegraph

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