Meeting Ken Loach

Celebrated director presents latest film

Brenda Dionisi
March 26, 2009

‘Florence has a happy memory for me. It was 25 years ago when the most historic strike since WWII began in Britain. I made a documentary film about it that was banned from television because it showed several pictures of the police beating the mediators. The documentary film festival in Florence showed the film and gave it a prize. Because of the prize, the film had to be shown in Britain, and ever since that moment, I have had a "warm" feeling toward this city.'


One of Britain's most controversial contemporary film directors, Ken Loach, offered these comments while in Florence on March 18 to present his latest film, It's a Free World, as part of a weeklong retrospective at the Cinema Auditorium Stenso. He last visited the city in 2004 to receive the Premio Fiesole ai Maestri del Cinema.


The critically acclaimed British film and television director is well known for his socialist ideals and social realism approach to directing. From his start in television in the 1960s with the series Z-Cars and Diary of a Young Man, he moved to film, making his debut with Cathy Come Home.


A member of the Labour Party until the mid-1990s, he has explored an array of social issues, often focusing on the experiences of the working class experience. More recently, he has examined the immigrant experience in his films. Loach has won an array of awards, including the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.


At a press conference held at the local headquarters of the Cgil, one of Italy's largest trade unions, the 73-year-old director spoke of his life's work and the turmoil gripping world markets and economies. ‘We meet now at such a critical time because across the West, economies are collapsing and from where I come from we feel responsible because we invented Margaret Thatcher, whose malign influence has spread across the world ... So firstly, let me apologize for Margaret Thatcher!', he quipped.


Loach discussed the consequences of the crisis and ways to overcome it. The only hope he sees, he said, is for members of the working class to better organize laborers on a European level. However, he admitted, it will be difficult to make this happen.


He also discussed the role of cinema in interpreting contemporary social realities. ‘Today, cinema is colonized by American films, and we need to get some space for independent cinema, and reclaim cinema for European and world cinema; we need to make more room for them because they are squeezed to the edge of the market,' Loach said.


‘Cinema could be the place where we explore who we are and tell our stories and the world's contradictions,' he offered. ‘Now, we can't do that, because we are customers and not participants.'

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