The latest film by British filmmaker Ken Loach, I DANIEL BLAKE, is being described as ‘a fearsome piece of drama’, ‘a rare political drama that touches the soul’ and is the Winner of the Cannes 2016 top prize, the Palme d’Or.
The film tells the story of Daniel Blake (played by actor & stand-up comedian Dave Johns), 59, who has worked as a joiner most of his life in Newcastle. Now, after a heart attack and nearly falling from a scaffold, he needs help from the State for the first time in his life.
He crosses paths with a single mother Katie (Hayley Squires) and her two young children, Daisy and Dylan. Katie’s only chance to escape a one-roomed homeless hostel in London has been to accept a flat in a city she doesn’t know some 300 miles away.
Daniel and Katie find themselves in no-man’s land caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of ‘striver and skiver’ in modern day Britain- and its causing a emotional storm amongst viewers and has received standing ovations from audiences moved to tears at festivals across the world.
Talking to Loach, about his pervious work, including the bleak tale of Cathy (1966) who loses her home, husband and eventually her child through the inflexibility of the British welfare system, directly lead to changes in the homeless laws and the public launch of the charity ‘shelter’.When asked how it felt making a film in a similar vein, fifty years on Loach said,
“They are both stories of people whose lives are seriously damaged by the economic situation they’re in. It’s been an idea we’ve returned to again and again but it’s particularly sharp in I, Daniel Blake.”
“Both Katie and Dan are seen in extremis. In the end, their natural cheerfulness and resilience are not enough. Certainly politically the world that this film shows is even more cruel than the world that Cathy was in. The market economy has led us inexorably to this disaster. It could not do otherwise. It generates a working class that is vulnerable and easy to exploit. Those who struggle to survive face poverty. It’s either the fault of the system or it’s the fault of the people. They don’t want to change the system, therefore they have to say it’s the fault of the people.”
The film is definitely causing a strong reaction from audiences, and when asked what he hopes the film will do to cause change, Loach replied,
“I think anger can be very constructive if it can be used; anger that leaves the audience with something unresolved in their mind, something to do, something challenging.”
The Guardian says, ‘This film intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secular intention of making us see that it really is happening, and in a prosperous nation, too’
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