BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC OneDirty War
BBC News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
The Making of Dirty War
Director Dan Percival and writer Lizzie Mickery worked together on the drama Dirty War, a collaboration between BBC Films and Current Affairs.

Filming a scene from Dirty War
Sunday, 26 September, 2004
2100 BST, BBC One

But what enticed them to make it? And why make it as a drama and not a documentary?

It all started when the BBC asked Dan to go away and think about what the new generation of terrorism actually meant.

Had we reached a time of anxiety and ignorance similar to the way we were in the 1960s about the threat of thermonuclear war?

At that time, Peter Watkins made a landmark film for the BBC called the 'War Game' that showed the inadequacy of our civil defence measures against a nuclear attack.

It was not shown for 25 years.

Fact or fiction?

Writer Lizzie Mickery
I think drama has the capacity to touch more people
Lizzie Mickery, writer

Dan was eager to tackle such provocative subject matter and when he came back - with a large amount of research and a basic storyline - Lizzie was asked whether she would be interested in co-writing the script.

Lizzie felt the film would ask a very important question: How prepared are we if a dirty bomb were to go off in the UK?

Both Dan and Lizzie agreed that this question would be best explored in the form of a drama.

"I think drama has the capacity to touch more people," says Lizzie. "If you are caught up in the emotions of the characters involved - and not just the statistics - the effect it has on you will last longer and be more intimate."

A top priority had to be simplicity and clarity; it was not a film for people "in the know." Its aim was to try to make sense of the situation we all face, to ask questions on our behalf, and most importantly, to move us.

While we, as viewers, are identifying with characters on screen and going through their struggles with them, it is perhaps easier to ask ourselves: "What if it was me?"

Director Dan Percival
The challenge was to tell the story of the attack from the intimate perspective of several different characters
Dan Percival, director

The last film that Dan made was Smallpox 2002, which explored the threat of bioterrorism, in which stocks of the fatal virus were used as a weapon.

Smallpox was a fictional documentary which allowed him a greater freedom to "forensically deconstruct" all the events behind a deliberate epidemic.

He sees Dirty War as a similar project but believes that had it been made as a documentary, it would have limited the extent to which he could take the viewer inside an experience of this magnitude.

"The challenge of Dirty War was to tell the story of the attack from the intimate perspective of several different characters," he says. "We want to get the messages of this film to the widest possible audience."

Dirty War was broadcast on Sunday, 26 September, 2004 at 2100 BST on BBC One, and was followed by a live question and answer programme at 2250 BST.

Shopping for Terror
25 Sep 03  |  Kenyon Confronts
Wall of silence over terror threat
16 May 04  |  Panorama


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific