Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, seems so relevant after the Tory slide | world cinema | Hindustan Times
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Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, seems so relevant after the Tory slide

In the light of Labour party’s performance in British elections, it is relevant that revisit British director Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.

world cinema Updated: Jun 12, 2017 16:03 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
I, Daniel Blake takes a sharp look at the British bureaucracy.
I, Daniel Blake takes a sharp look at the British bureaucracy.

The acclaimed British director, Ken Loach -- known for his no-nonsense look at social and political wrongs -- seemed to be bang on with his latest masterpiece, I, Daniel Blake, which won the coveted Palm dÓr at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016.

The movie is a heart-wrenching portrayal of all that is not right with the British bureaucracy today. I, Daniel Blake -- which unfortunately had a limited release in India some months ago -- fictionalises the cruelty of the bureaucracy in the UK, and how its doggedness has caused hurt, humiliation and unimaginable suffering to the working class - a community that Loach has so often spoken about in his films like Bread and Roses, An Angel’s Share, Ladybird Ladybird and so on.

I, Daniel Blake paints the ruthlessness of the British bureaucratic system and how it deals with men and women - both young and old, healthy and sick - as they struggle through unemployment and grinding poverty. Loach’s work focuses on Daniel Blake, a middleaged widower who finds that after his heart attack he cannot find work or get state benefits.

With standup comic Dave Johns as Daniel Blake and Hayley Squires as Katie, the single mother of two children who is relocated to a Government flat in Newcastle with its cheaper standards of living, Loach’s movie takes us right into the storm of bureaucratic obstinacy and unfeeling attitude. There is one unforgettable scene where we see a hungry and desperate Katie with her two children getting caught after she steals food from a supermarket.

Loach told Screen on Friday soon after the British elections -- that saw Theresa May hanging on to power after an unclear verdict which gave the Labour Party more seats than before implying that the people were dissatisfied with the Tory politics: “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell did surprisingly well given that they were fighting the election in the teeth of a gale from a deeply hostile press and media. They showed the extent to which people are concerned with ‘real life’ issue such as health, housing and schooling, in contrast to the commentators who had their eyes firmly fixed on Brexit.

“Of course, it’s a pity that Labour didn’t win, but just think that if Labour MPs hadn’t spent the last two years trying to undermine Corbyn they should have won,” Loach averred.

The auteur’s Palm d’Or victory appears all the more relevant today given the surprise gain which the Labour Party clinched.

Loach added: “It is about the depths of poverty and the use of hunger by the government as a weapon. People are revolted by that. They are revolted by the Tories’ politics and Theresa May’s manner reinforced that lack of empathy... She doesn’t have normal conversations. She speaks in a robotic manner. She doesn’t seem to understand what people are saying to her. The more she says, the bigger the hole she digs for herself. I hope she keeps talking.”

Loach had helped Corbyn during his election campaign and had also made some videos about him.

One may recall here that just before Loach made I, Daniel Blake, he had said that he would no longer make fiction features, only documentaries. But probably his urge to narrate socially relevant and moving stories pushed him into making I, Daniel Blake. Loach is now 80-plus, but is surprisingly agile with a very clear mind.

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