★★★★☆

THIS passionate, pertinent and impressively thorough documentary from debut director Morag Livingstone takes a comprehensive look at the events that surrounded three industrial disputes. They involve three decades and three governments, but share a common thread of a threat to collectivism, democracy and sense of belonging, within trade unions in particular and the UK population as a whole.

Where we might expect it to focus on one sole issue or case study, it effectively brings together stories of the eventually privatised postal service, the Grangemouth oil refinery and Rupert Murdoch’s hold over large swathes of the British newspaper business.

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Although it’s an info-heavy documentary, crucially making you feel like you’re really learning something you didn’t know before you watched the film, it also shows empathy towards the plight of its trade union interviewees.

Particularly affecting is the story of Stephen Deans and his daughter Ailis, whose candid and intimately captured conversations reveal the anger-inducing demonisation and vilification of Deans as a trade union official, to point of a mental breakdown. It’s this kind of personal touch – mixed with the in-depth grassroots-style investigative nature of Livingstone’s documentary method, which reveals everything from specific incidents of police abusing their powers to countrywide suppression of collectivism – which makes it such a compelling watch in a society where the gap between rich and poor is ever-widening.

The centralised and quietly angry outcry against the unfairness in society is personified in the smoking-gun revelation of a hitherto secret but long-suspected government plan that gives big business more power over the ordinary worker, “where shareholder value and large profit are king”.

A shocking and telling quote by James Murdoch, heir to the media empire, features prominently in the film and perhaps says it all.

“The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence ... is profit.”

With the uncovered documents as a solid backbone, the film makes its case convincingly. There is a fascinating segment on the British newspaper industry, particularly Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of The Times and Sunday Times in the early 1980s, including classified meetings with Margaret Thatcher surrounding the means to get around monopoly laws.

This is unequivocally, unashamedly and proudly a film on the side of the trade unions, stating its case and points with gusto, understanding and an admirable sense of conviction. It is available online before a limited theatrical release in a few weeks.