Archive for April 15th, 2007

Ken Loach: director “from below.”

April 15, 2007

Land and FreedomLand and FreedomIf Jesus were here today he would be a film maker and unlike Fox news he would not be “fair and balanced.” Messiah Productions would be unambiguous by beginning with a perspective “from below.” What does the world look like from the vantage point of the poor and voiceless? Somewhere and everywhere lurking below the surface of his cinematic efforts one would find his omnipresent theme of “the kingdom” or “the reign of God.” What forces were conspiring with , aiding and abetting, giving birth or downright foreclosing on the reign of peace and justice in this world.

The Birchcliff Craic Club (Craic is Irish for stimulating conversation or as our late member Des Rainey would have said, “immersion in a verbal bath”) is sponsoring in its weekly conversations the filmic efforts of Britain’s Ken Loach. One of the advantages in living in a metropolis is the chance to catch up on great film makers like Loach, like Jesus, a brother who begins his modern parables from below.

Loach seemingly has finally hit respectability with his current Cannes Winner, The Wind that Shakes the Barley the epic struggle for Irish Independence in 1920. When he accepted the Palme d’Or Loach said, “If we can tell the truth about the past, perhaps we might dare tell it about the present.” A direct swipe at the Blair spin doctors.

Ken Loach has had a long, distinguished career in England where his class perspective is much more appreciated than in Hollywood. Whether it was battling Thatcherism or simply telling working class stories like Raining Stones (1993) where Bob an unemployed father in Manchester, juggles one odd job after another in order to scrape together enough money to buy his daughter’s first communion dress, Loach brilliantly captures the gritty lives of the poor, often using local actors whose regional dialects make them absolutely believable.

Loach is no fan of Hollywood eye candy.

Bread and Roses (2000) found him in LA documenting the struggle of non-unionized janitors. Land and Freedom (1995) is the powerful retelling of the Spanish Civil War from the perspective of a young unemployed worker and British Communist Party member, as he sets off for Spain and joins the fighting.

All of these films are being shown at the Cinematheque in Toronto for the next few months. Next Saturday we will see his political thriller “The entry from the IRA” as critics called Hidden Agenda (1988). Check the Cinematheque website for the listings.