Ken Loach still has more to say against The Man in society with his cinema, that was clear coming away from the Cannes press conference for his latest movie The Old Oak.
We asked Loach if the reports are true; whether The Old Oak is truly his finale. Answered the director, “One day at a time. If you get up in the morning, and you’re not in the obituary column; one day at a time.”
The 87-year old Loach told THR back in April, “realistically, it would be hard to do a feature film again” given that “your facilities do decline. Your short-term memory goes and my eyesight is pretty rubbish now, so it’s quite tricky.”
However, Loach emphasized today how important it is for cinema, especially with the younger filmmakers, to stay vibrant as the artform puts people of power in check.
“It’s not up to the directors and writers if they can make films; now the doors are closing on young people who want to engage with the issues of their time with a political understanding other than simply a social understanding. That’s a big difference because political understanding means you challenge those in power. Why should those in power with the money when their system is failing support films that should challenge them?” exclaimed Loach.
Filmmakers can no longer operate in a safe space to voice their concerns about society per the filmmaker. “That’s the problem,” he said.
“Organizing the opposition is the problem,” said Loach.
Old Oak follows pub owner TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner) whose venue is located in a deprived north-eastern former mining town. His patrons are mad at life –declining home prices and immigrants– and tensions arrives when a busload of terrified Syrians pull in. TJ makes a bridge to the Syrians, using the pub as a place for a food-bank style community supper. He also forms a connection with Yara (Ebla Mari), a young Syrian woman who lives with her brother and elderly mother; the family eager to know the fate of her father, who has been jailed by the Assad regime.
Loach said that the inspiration for The Old Oak came from working in the North East over his last two movies, and witnessing a strong industry community getting abandoned. “We saw the refugees from the Syrian War coming in, being placed in these areas where they would not be seen,” the director explained citing that there were more Syrian refugees in that part of the UK than anywhere else in the country. “The government doesn’t want you to know that they are there,” he said.
Loach pointed to former UK PM Tony Blair “for creating the refugee problem” going back to supporting the Iraq invasion. “He should be in front of the Hague for war crimes,” said the filmmaker.
“We need a government that gives power to the people in terms of ownership, services and production,” said Loach, “Not for big corporations to make profits and declare war around the world.”