‘Braverman knows exactly what she’s unleashing’: Ken Loach on his latest, and perhaps final, film | Ken Loach
TVeteran filmmaker Ken Loach is famous for his storylines that depict life’s darkest injustices. But his latest film has touched a sharper political sensibility today than when it was conceived before the pandemic.
Loach, now 87, said The Old Oak, which hits theaters Friday, will be the last in a career spanning more than six decades. Filming, which lasted six weeks, was a real challenge, he says, but he downplays the difficulties of making a major film at his age, when the sight in one eye is almost gone.
“When you do it, you do it, you just have to go for it and keep going,” he says. “But I don’t see myself doing the course again. Your ability weakens a bit when you hit.
One of the main characters in the film, set in a run-down former mining village in the north-east, is a pub whose name gives the film its title. It’s the last remaining space in this once-thriving community that has fallen on hard times after three decades of decline. This becomes a central point of the film.
Tensions rise in the village when Syrian families are bused to the area as part of a refugee resettlement program with little or no advance warning to residents. The new arrivals receive a hostile reception from some – but not all – of the village’s white, working-class residents, who wonder why the Syrians are being given houses when they themselves have so many. little.
With his long-term writing partner Paul Laverty, Loach planned the film in 2019, using as material the arrival of Syrian refugees in the UK in 2016 as part of a government program to resettle 20,000 people. Then the pandemic hit, the project was put on hold, and neither knew if the film would ever see the light of day.
Since Loach and Laverty began working on the film, the far right has mobilized against asylum seekers in a way that had not been the case in 2019. At the time, almost no asylum seekers asylum seekers were being housed in hotels and the government is considering housing them in spartan military bases such as RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and Wethersfield airfield in Essex as well as the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, had not been designed. These sites are now hotspots for the far right.
The film explores how one traumatized community reacts to another when they end up living side by side and how relationships develop between refugees and long-time residents of the village.
Laverty says the film not only shows the despair of people’s lives, but also the hope. “Hope has many facets. It’s empathy. One thing both communities in this film didn’t expect was to spark hope. The story is full of cruelty but there are also moments of empathy and understanding.
He cites a character, a village resident who is a “good person” but who begins to swallow the anti-migrant rhetoric. “If we don’t start listening to people in communities, the biggest danger is that the far right will take hold,” he says.
Loach, a lifelong socialist with unwavering political convictions, says: “The far right is on the march across Europe. I believe that the Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman, is cynical. She knows exactly what she’s releasing with her comments.
Although Loach has declared this to be his last film, his love for his work remains intact. His classic 1969 film Kes, about a troubled boy and his relationship with a kestrel, was voted one of the best films of the 20th century by the British Film Institute.
“I don’t think a film like Kes would be made today,” he says. “Everything is micromanaged these days. I’m not a big movie buff but the use of the camera is now much more aggressive. My influences that have stayed with me are 1960s politics, the new left and some post-war European films.
Even with his failing eyesight and his declaration that this is his last film, is it possible that this is not Loach’s last work? “You should never say never,” he laughs. “It only takes one eye to look through a camera. »