Dying Princess Diana Photo Shown in New Documentary at Cannes Film Festival

Photos following Diana's fatal 1997 crash shown in the film "Unlawful Killing."

May 11, 2011 — -- A documentary film about the death of Princess Diana won't be shown in Great Britain because a photo in the movie shows the princess just moments before she died in the wreckage of a Paris car crash.

The grim pictures have angered many Brits, still aglow over the royal wedding of her oldest son Prince William, and the movie's director claims that British lawyers have insisted those pictures be cut out before it can be shown in the country.

The film, "Unlawful Killing," will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this week. The 90 minute film was financed in part by Mohamed al Fayed, father of Diana's lover, Dodi Fayed, who also died in the 1997 crash.

Keith Allen, the film's director, called the film an "inquest of the inquest" into the death of Diana in an interview with the Guardian.

The film's trailer begins with a 1993 letter written by Diana describing her fears that someone was conspiring to kill her.

"My husband is planning 'an accident' in my car. Brake failure or serious head injury," the note reads.

The film then explores the investigation into Diana's death, showing graphic photos taken by the papparazzi when Diana is near death in the Paris tunnel where the crash occurred. The crash was ruled a drunk driving accident.

Photos of Dying Princess Diana Causing British Uproar

Katie Nicholl, author of "The Making of a Royal Romance," said that the photos will likely outrage Princes William and Harry.

"The boys absolutely abhor anything that attempts to cash in on their mother, be it a film, be it a book that attempts to capitalize on her death," said Nicholl. "It's the one thing they can be very vocal about. It's obviously very timely with the royal wedding and with Diana's 50th birthday, but it will be incredibly painful for William and Harry."

The young men mentioned their mother at William's wedding to Kate Middleton just weeks ago.

The controversial film will not be shown in the United Kingdom for now. British lawyers insisted on several cuts to the film before it could be shown in England, director Allen wrote in an op-ed in the Guardian.

"So rather than butcher the film, or risk legal action, we're showing it in France, then the U.S., and everywhere except the UK. Pity, because at a time when the mindless sugar rush of the royal wedding has been sending British Republicans into a diabetic coma, it could act as a welcome antidote," Allen told the Guardian.

Christopher Andersen, author of "The Day Diana Died," said that it's not the first time photos of a dying Diana have been published. In 2004, CBS published photos of Diana and the Italian press also published pictures of the princess.

Andersen said that England's attempt to stop the photos parallels the release of footage of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in the United States.

"The famous footage of the president's assassination, very gruesome footage when his head literally explodes, was kept out of public view for 14 years. No one saw it until 1977 when it was aired for the first time on television...Even the most gruesome photos of Diana don't compare to Kennedy's assassination," said Andersen, author of "William and Kate: A Royal Love Story."

Andersen rejected any conspiracy theories about Diana's death.

"As much as people want to believe that she was murdered, it was simple drunk driving. The evidence is overwhelming that's what it is. The driver [Henri Paul] wasn't just magnificently drunk. He was seen stumbling down corridors of the Ritz Hotel. He was on all sorts of painkillers and in emotional turmoil," said Hendersen.

Barbie Zelizer, author of "About to Die: How News Images Move The Public," said that photos of the dead or near dead are often deemed taboo depending on how close people feel to the subject, both emotionally and geographically.

"We're more comfortable looking at images of death when they are culturally distant or geographically distant. We weren't shown pictures of people who died in 9/11, but we were shown people who died in the 2004 tsunami," Zelizer said.

Zelizer said that technical advances in cameras and the advent of cell phone cameras have made capturing death photos easier.

"We've seen people minutes before their death, the Pakistani Benazir Bhutto, John F. Kennedy...As cameras have gotten faster and lighter, the capacity for cameras to enter into situations involving death or near death has absolutely increased. Being able to show those pictures is not a question of technical capability, but much more a question of moral standard and political circumstance."

Zelizer said that displaying images of death or near death can actually help the public's healing process and understanding of an event. Since the film centers on Diana's death, showing those images makes sense, Zelizer said.

"Her death is absolutely part of the sequence of action that they're telling and when we leave that to the imagination, it takes on a magical power, it becomes greater than it is…we're actually giving it more power over us than if were we to actually look at it," said Zelizer.

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