Unlawful Killing

UK | 2011 | Directed by Keith Allen

Logline: A documentary about the allegedly conspiratorial killing of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her lover Dodi Fayed.

Actor-cum-director Keith Allen, who also happens to be the father of pop star Lily Allen, took a gamble, a big gamble. After making an hour long television doco on business magnate Mohammad Al-Fayed, father of Dodi Fayed, Allen returned to the subject matter of Al-Fayed’s dead son; more precisely the conspiracy surrounding the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, on 31 August August 1997 and the subsequent Royal Inquest.

In Britain an unlawful killing is the verdict that is delivered by an inquest into the death of a person by one or several unknown persons, specifically that the killing was done without lawful excuse, is in breach of criminal law, and, most importantly, that the inquest does not name any person(s) as responsible. Most cases occur within a military context.

Whether you believe the conspiracy theories or not, Unlawful Killing paints a pretty damning portrait of the Royal family, especially Prince Philip whose adolescence is revealed as a Nazi sympathizer, or at the very least guilty-by-guardianship-association, his, it appears, is quite the sociopathic, racist personality, or worse. I’ve never paid much attention to the Royal family, but after watching this documentary I felt very saddened at how Diana Spencer became caught like a butterfly in an enormous web of deceit, betrayal, ridicule, cruelty, and finally, murder.

I use the term “allegedly” loosely, only because no one was ever brought to justice. The French paparazzi were heavily criticized for aggressively pursuing Diana and Dodi on the night they died. Many wanted them used as scapegoats. The truth will probably never surface, just like the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and the assassination of President Kennedy remain as cloudy as ever.

Lawyers insisted on 87 changes to the finished documentary before Allen would be “safe” to release it. He refused, and the film was not released in the UK. Allen hoped the American market would be more interested, given their perverse fascination with conspiracy theories, but alas, the doco failed to pick up any distribution for fear of possible litigation.

Instead, Unlawful Killing floats in the purgatory waters of raw truths and dangerous deception, the perfect limbo for the Sydney Underground Film Festival, which is where the documentary screened in 2013, with the festival directors muffling quiet anxiety that dark forces might descend on the festival cinema and seize the film on the grounds of subversive intent.

And it is a powerful and compelling documentary put together with intelligence and wit, punctuated with candid interviews from those involved in and around the official inquest, which, absurdly, took place nearly ten years after the event. It’s the inquest of the inquest, if you will. And while one can argue the documentary, funded by Mohammad Al-Fayed, is a vehicle driven from the backseat by the grieving father to push his overwhelming belief about a terrible cover-up, one cannot deny that there is something very dark and insidious behind the glittering veneer of the Royal family.