Still The Enemy Within, Documentary by Owen Gower 4

Still The Enemy Within, Documentary by Owen Gower

Photo by John Sturrock
Photo by John Sturrock


Far from ostentatious, Owen Gower’s Still the Enemy Within is timely with the 1984 miner strike thirty year anniversary but also serendipitously with the rejoicing last year in the demise and passing of the Iron Lady herself. Notably, the release of other films such as Pride highlights interest in these historically damning run of events.

In fact the timing of this documentation is opportune whilst we are still suffering under a Tory, Thatcherite rule which at present is threatening to privatize the NHS, and increase those living below the poverty line in the more deprived areas of the UK. The release of films such as Pride, Spirit of 45 and the South African Miner’s Shot Down, have also sparked further interest, and with prolific archival footage of Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill giving their memorable speeches, this film is not short of substance.

Obtaining a fantastic balance of all media formats, reconstruction and archival footage, and narration of those that were in amongst it, the talking heads, Norman Strike and Paul Symonds, it is however blatant that the filmmaker has made the blunt decision to have no politicians or no so-called experts included in the final edit.

A creative collage of media that blurs transitions in style and format, Still the Enemy Within pulls the interest of the viewer, making the two hour informative documentary heavily tug on our heart strings, with this telling of the fascinating story that surrounded the communities of miners that were hugely affected by Thatcher’s declaration of war on the unions. The saturated grade could deceptively elude the audience into thinking that the reconstructed material renders it somewhat archival; making it at least something that is not fighting with the narrative to coherently ensure the story is impactful.

Integrating the infamous speech in which Thatcher states “this lady’s not for turning,” there are without a doubt some fascinating moments in history drawn upon by Gower; that is without question. The talking heads despite not being “experts” could not have been better picked; Norman Strike’s disappointingly true but comical anecdote about the police almost arresting him for providing false information as they were sure he was making this name up, being key to the activist movement, articulately emphasises the how powerful yarns and humour can be within a doc such as this. All of a sudden we can relate and empathise with Strike and his frustration even more than we already do. Reminding us of the need for wit and tales during the days of striking, the audience is given an insight into what would keep them stirred. Effectively Strike’s retort, “but they never met my mate, my mate was actually called Will Pickett” actually excretes more than a chortle.

Needle-dropping of a fantastic OST including Cherry Red Records’ The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Billie Holiday, also typically The Specials, the music chosen for this documentary is apt, figuratively correlating with the chronological account. Discernibly informed, Gower gives a high production value insight into the brisk faults of the Tory rule, Thatcher’s prowess, and the failing of the union in Nottingham, which had an unfathomably catastrophic effect on the striking across the mining community. This all contributed to the downfall of an industry that those at the working class level were clinging onto, an industry which is now renowned for the onslaught that it faced from the media, police and state.

Intrusive camera like that of a telescope imposing on the old footage of the strikes effectively highlights the brutality of the police force, a forbidden insight. The diatribe of police mounted on horses, their riot division using sheer brutality, we almost feel like voyeurs witnessing the harsh tactics the police would use in the course of a strike, particularly during the days of Thatcher’s insidious rule. The reality of striking is made evident by this doc with no glorifying evident, as the media refers to the “real face of these luddites” highlighting the vilifying that was going on. The meagre hope lies in the lessons learned when it comes to our more contemporary struggles and present Tory rule. It draws upon these, bringing it back to our present day. An informed documentary with anecdotes that make the history of these 1984 strikes tangible, and no doubt leave you speechless.


For more information on their screenings across the country click here.

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