Lyra celebrates and extends the life of investigative journalist Lyra McKee who was murdered on the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Lyra was screened as part of Sheffield DocFest. All words of this review were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.
Lyra, directed by Alison Millar tells the story of 29-year-old Irish investigative journalist Lyra McKee who was murdered on 18 April 2019, the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Lyra McKee was murdered whilst filming riots that took place, and to date, her murderer walks free.
Produced in partnership with Channel 4, Lyra pronounced Leeh-rah, is an exceptional true story of heartbreaking loss, and unwavering perseverance from the journalist during her short, but powerful life.
Winning the Tim Hetherington Award as part of its Sheffield DocFest tenure, and coming second in the Audience Award, with a .6% points of separation from first place, Lyra deserves continual praise for its delicate, and poignant exploration of the Irish landscape and political unrest, as well as giving longevity to the award-winning journalist.
During her life, Lyra McKee continued asking why, determined to uncover stories and truths, digging deeper and attempting to give resolutions where there were none.
She was awarded the Young Journalist of the Year award in collaboration with Sky, and was a key person of influence in the journalist space, speaking at events hosted by TEDx, approaching every opportunity with glee and an outward appreciation of the world and how it can provide her curious mind with answers.
It was this continual joyous flare McKee radiated, contrasting against the bleak prospects after the Troubles ended in 1998.
But the film explores this with such personal connectivity.
Directed by BAFTA-winner Alison Millar, someone who had known Lyra for many years, and sees her as a daughter, showcases her exceptional talent of Lyra on a personal level greater than any other director could manage.
It is through Millar’s directorial decisions, in partnership with editor Chloe Lambourne, whose work includes BAFTA-winning, and Academy Award-nominated For Sama, that the film triumphs.
Choosing to include Lyra’s own words, amongst interview and archive footage, typed out live mirroring a computer screen showed us inside her mind at the inception of the idea making the film feel uniquely special.
“I think there are truths, and there are narratives,” writes Lyra on-screen, unaware of the irony of writing her truth within the narrative of her life.
As if, in those moments, Lyra remains alive, her brain whirring with ideas, her poetic poignancy with her linguistic choices framing an idea, shaping it and presenting her truth bundled up within fact and first-hand case studies that become her narrative.
Intertwining this with her humour with testimonies from family, and fiancée Sara Canning, as well as archival footage from McKee herself, the film steers away from being a melancholic portrait and raises a toast to celebrate what was, immortalising her life for the brilliance that it always has been.
With recent years bringing success to Channel 4’s Derry Girls, and that show sparking conversation about the Troubles, and its impact on the generation of the 90s, I am oddly delighted that Lyra is being released at a time when this dialogue is still ongoing so her name and story won’t be lost to the archives, allowing those close to her to return ownership of her name away from politicians in a time of a vacuum for the Irish government.
Director Alison Millar says, “The film is an urgent story that reflects life today in contemporary Northern Ireland as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Lyra’s story and work represent her generation and remind us why we cannot allow the dark shadows of the past to return.”
Lyra McKee was a talented queer woman, proud of her own identity, with her curiosity and constant desire to understand the differences between truth and fiction through investigative study, and though the story is horrific, she wouldn’t want us to wallow in the solemn, but rather share the view that the world, much like her, is full of joy, and to discover it all we need to do is ask why.
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