Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Well done Channel Four - Diana: Witnesses in the Tunnel

There were some remarkable images and statements in the programme, Diana: Witnesses in the Tunnel.

It was remarkable to hear and see the statements from the respected French photo-journalist Jacques Langevin, who was present at the Ritz and later in the tunnel. This is no “paparazzi”.

I had not previously realised that the chauffeur Henri Paul, between 11.15 and 12.20, came out of the Ritz to see the photographers at the front - telling them "they'll be out in five minutes...ten minutes etc". I find this extraordinary given that Dodi and Diana were supposed, popularly, to be evading the photographers.

The programme showed new footage of the front of the Ritz filmed by a tourist.

It was informative to see the position of the car after it had spun 180 degrees and was jammed against the wall opposite the pillar with which it originally collided.

It was remarkable to hear the testimony of Romauld Rat, the photographer who was the first on the scene. It was illuminating to hear that he comforted the Princess in English: "Don't worry, be cool, doctor will soon arrive".

I did think that it was distracting to see interspersed moving video of the photographers at the scene which was, upon reflection, obviously dramatised after the event.

It was remarkable to hear that the Sun's picture editor, Ken Lennox, more or less agreed to pay £300,000 for photos on the strength of a quick phone call which awoke him from his bed. "Absolutely sensational" was the way he described the photographs of Diana "with blood trickling down her face" that he eventually saw (he thought at the time that she was just injured, and not in danger of losing her life). As soon as unconfirmed reports emerged that Diana had died, the photographs went from being sensationally valuable to "unusable" in a micro-second.

All in all, it is remarkable that some of these facts have not been visually presented to the British public until now.

It was remarkable that James Whittaker, of all people, came out of this quite well, in that he was one of the first people to challenge the assumption that the photographers were to blame. In the opposite corner, Al-Fayed's spokesman, Michael Cole went on Channel 4 News shortly after the accident to say, memorably, that the photographers had behaved like "Indians" surrounding a "Wells Fargo coach". James Whittaker versus Michael Cole. You decide.

It was remarkable that the medics tried to revive Diana for two hours. Even a cursory knowledge of "Casualty" tells you that this is unbelievably long. So they tried incredibly hard to save her.

It was incredible to hear that the British Ambassador "cried and cried and cried" when he heard Diana had died.

It was illuminating to hear from an eyewitness that the photographers didn't arrive 'until three or four minutes after the car crashed, so they couldn't have been the cause of the accident.'

From very early on, the public perception was that the paparazzi "killed Diana" by chasing her.

Thank goodness than Channel Four has challenged this assumption in a thorough way for the first time (that I have seen). As James Whittaker said, a few minutes after the news came through, it was not the paparazzi who were driving Diana's car. The programme reported that after two years of investigation, the French authorities cleared the photographers of any wrong-doing. A few of them paid one Euro each to Al-Fayed for invasion of privacy.

One footnote: Channel Four surrounded this programme with a remarkable structure - pre-warnings, a web forum, a studio debate afterwards. The narration of the programme was by Laurence Fox, who plays the sidekick in "Lewis" and is the son of actor James Fox. I thought it was a remarkably stylish, poignant and fitting narration.

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