Steve McQueen says people will be ‘disturbed’ by his Grenfell film

·2-min read

Steve McQueen has warned that people may be “disturbed” by his new film, Grenfell, which will be shown at London’s Serpentine Gallery next month.

The 12 Years a Slave director made the 24-minute film six months after the June 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, in which 72 people died.

After garnering the support of the bereaved, survivors and other locals, McQueen took off in a helicopter from the north-west in December of that year and flew towards the tower, directing the whole piece in a single shot.

The film sees McQueen’s camera repeatedly circle the council block, offering viewers a look inside rooms where people died. Forensic investigators can be seen in the footage, sifting through the site.

Speaking to The Guardian about the film, McQueen said: “You must understand that the violence that was inflicted on that community was no joke. I didn’t want to let people off the hook.

“There are going to be people who are going to be a little bit disturbed. When you make art, anything half decent… there are certain people you will possibly offend. But that is how it is.”

He told the publication that he “sat on” the film after it was shot because “it couldn’t have been shown within three or four years [of the disaster]”.

For some of his childhood, McQueen lived on the nearby White City estate. He said he felt compelled to make the film before officials wrapped the tower in white plastic in the months after the blaze.

“It was almost like a race against time,” he said. “Once things are covered up, they are forgotten about, or it can be more convenient for people who want it to be forgotten about.”

McQueen described what happened as the result of “deliberate neglect”, adding: “It was no accident. There were so many people, so many companies, so many factors … It was all a deliberate act of neglect and, to a certain extent, greed.”

The film comes as the community awaits the findings of the public inquiry, which began in September 2017.

Grenfell Tower disaster (PA Wire)
Grenfell Tower disaster (PA Wire)

It remains to be seen whether the police will recommend criminal prosecutions and jailtime for anyone involved, and what will be done with the site of tower.

Some want to keep part of the building as it is, to serve as a reminder of what happened, while others want it demolished and replaced with a memorial.

Grenfell will show at the Serpentine Gallery from 7 April to 10 May. Entry is free.

Last month, the BBC announced it had commissioned a factual drama about the tragedy.

Also titled Grenfell, the series has been written by Bafta-winning Wolf Hall and The State screenwriter Peter Kosminsky, and draws from more than five years of research and hours of public testimony.