Loach defends ‘anti-British’ Palme d’Or winner…

CANNES’ Palme D’Or winner Ken Loach has been accused of having an anti-British agenda, after critics claimed his film ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ was the “most pro-IRA film ever” and is “designed to drag the reputation of our nation through the mud”. In the Daily Mail, Ruth Dudley Edwards writes that Loach’s purpose is to “encourage direct comparisons between the Ireland of 1920-22 and present-day Iraq”. “This, of course, requires the portrayal of the British as sadists and the Irish as romantic, idealistic resistance fighters.” Of course, Loach’s political sympathies are hardly a big secret – it’s not as if he has a Hidden Agenda.Here’s an extract of the dialogue from the official Cannes film festival site:

PAT: ‘We’ve got to show these bastards… drive them out.’
DAMIEN: ‘How many British soldiers in this country?’
TIM: ‘Too many…’
TEDDY: ‘About eight thousand’
DAMIEN: ‘Tans?’
TEDDY: ‘Over a thousand…’
DAMIEN: ‘And machine gun corps, cavalry, artillery units, police…’
TEDDY: ‘And many more besides. What’s your point?’
DAMIEN: ‘So what are you going to do? Take on the British Empire with a hurley… stun the bastards one by one?!’

Darren Waters, BBC News entertainment reporter, writes:

It is a clear attempt to find resonance with events in Iraq, with the US in the role of the Empire clinging on to the past.

Such lack of balance, however, results in a one-dimensional script. The British are depicted as cardboard cut-out thugs and the motivation for the protagonists is delivered with a heavy hand when a lighter touch is needed.

The film works best when examining the emotional turbulence felt by ordinary Irish men and women when they have to turn to armed struggle and murder.

In one scene the Irish Republican Army attacks a British troop convoy and many of the Republicans are visibly distressed with the deaths they have caused.

But the power of the scene evaporates when the soldiers return home only to find British troops attacking an Irish farm and its female-only habitants as part of a search for IRA members.

It clumsily absolves the characters of any guilt over their murderous actions and sets the tone for the subjective stance of the film.

Loach’s response to being accused of anti-Britishness is:

“Nonsense,” he told BBC Breakfast. “We could have shown things that were much worse than are actually in the film.”

He also said: “The film is about, we hope, a little step, a very little step in the British confronting their imperialist history and maybe if we tell the truth about the past, maybe we will tell the truth about the present.”

An important historical story that needed telling, left-wing revisionism, republican propaganda, an honest representation… or one-sided drivel?

The movie is due to go on general release in Ireland on 23 June, so I guess you’ll just have to wait and see… unless someone is willing to kick off a debate on a movie they’ve never seen..?