On January 30, 1972, the Civil Rights Association of Derry organized what was meant to be a peaceful march protesting the British violation of civil liberties in Northern Ireland. The protest was led by Parliament member Ivan Cooper, who wanted the march not only to express nationalist feelings but to prove to England that those sentiments could be expressed without bloodshed. (He was an admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He was also a Protestant, though most of the marchers were Catholic.) This wasn't an easy stance: it challenged not only the contempt of the British military, for whom any demonstrating Cath­olic was a hooligan, but also the view of the IRA and its sympathizers that peaceful resistance was useless.

The results were disastrous. The army placed physical restrictions on the path of the march; Cooper attempted to comply, but some of the younger protesters forced their way down the forbidden route. The British responded with gunfire, claiming afterward (and without evidence) that they'd been fired on first. At the end of the day, 13 Irishmen lay dead--almost all of them 21 or younger--and 14 wounded.

That's the topic of Paul Greengrass's tense, skillful film Bloody Sunday. You can see the strong influence of Constantin Costa-Gavras's political thrillers on Greengrass, but he goes in for a starker documentary-realist style. Good as they were, the actors in Z and State of Siege were unmistakably actors; the cast members of Bloody Sunday almost always manage to seem like real people caught off guard in newsreels.