Review: Stop Nineteen (2020)

Courtesy of Sheffield Doc/Fest

Is it moral to visit a place of someone else’s tragedy as a tourist? Probably not, but that kind of a behaviour is merely a reflection of habits earned over the course of our education. That means that the tourists would, for instance, visit Waterloo, Nazi bunkers and KGB torture museums because they learned about them and they find those terms and toponyms familiar enough. The real question is, however, what to do when the bloody history is too recent so the wounds are still fresh, or the consequences of the acts in the past are still felt in the daily life.

Case in point: Belfast and the “dark tourism” there where people from out of town visit the places of the conflict in The Troubles times from the late 60s till the late 90s. With her documentary Stop Nineteen, playing in the competition of Sheffield Doc/Fest, Danielle Swindells tried to tackle some of the topics and the ethical repercussions of it.

The film opens with a static frame of a street divided by walls before the sightseeing tour bus gets into it. The tour guide Gavin assumes the role of the narrator, visiting the various places that are the subject of The Troubles and their consequences. A collage of the archival material, sometimes shocking, but always informative, is edited in, the walls and the checkpoints are being visited. The tourists take their photos with their selfie sticks, while the unnamed locals in their short off-screen interviews speak about their memories and feelings. The fishbowl metaphor is the particularly strong one: while ones come, see and move on, the others have to live in it.

Swindells had some previous experiences with the short documentaries and it seems that tourism is one of the subjects she is particularly interested in. Stop Nineteen is a stellar example of a clear and simple (but not simplified at all) approach serving its purpose to perfection in a very compact format of just over 8 minutes. It is certainly a thought-provoking film.

Stop Nineteen from Danielle Swindells on Vimeo.

Runtime: 8′ 15”
Country: UK, Ireland
Language: English
Directed by: Danielle Swindells
Produced by: Francesca Carr