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..?

  • nmc

    After all they can’t deny they had an empire and by today’s moral standards having an empire is evil.

    So they’ve stopped now have they? Tell that to the Iraqis.

    Hurt by the injustuces of 1919-21? Well, yes, and let me tell you why. Because my grandfather and his brothers sat down and told me the stories about getting beaten by the B&Ts, and having a greyhound shot by them, and other stories.

    I don’t have to try to hard to be annoyed by this, after all I love my Grandfather, and my great uncle, and picturing him being abused by some state sponsored thugs, acting in the name of the “great” british empire makes me angry. Perhaps you should picture this happening to your grandfather, and maybe you’ll see 1919 isn’t that long ago.

  • rafa benitez

    I’m not going to defend the British Empire, it just was, and it speaks no more for the sinfulness of the British people than the Omagh bombings speak for the Irish people. Nor do I believe the Irish need to explain why they got independence the way they did. The wanted it and got is by rebellion, why not if that was the only way? We can argue from this distance whether it was the only way, but what would that achieve?
    That’s all I wanted to hear. Reason and rationallity.

    The only sad thing on this thread for me is the hatred of the Brits
    Not sure if you are pointing this one at anyone who has spoken out aginst Empire, but in my case, I support a British football team (can you guess which one?), I watch British TV and listen to British music. It would take a monumental effort for me to hate the British. I do dislike certain, archaic attitudes, especially on the subject of Empire, but debating with gusto on a site designed for that purpose (as most here are) is hardly a sign of hatred. Maybe you should put things into perspective. This isn’t the Dáil.

    My take on Ireland is that it has taken off likke never before in the last 15 years and people should be celebrating that.
    I take great pride in our achivements, and tend to concentrate on them more than on past injustices. This is only the beginning, I can’t wait for the next twenty years!

  • Rory

    I take it DK that my grandchildren would also be able to claim recompense for the monetary loss incurred because of my attack and the subsequent affect on their heritage. Or is that limited to a select number of victims (but not all) of Nazi Germany?

  • Keith M on Jun 01, 2006 @ 12:28 PM wrote “Like it or not the British saw a stable democracy as their legacy in most of the countries that were part of the empire. That’s why they went to such lengths to resist the indepence claim of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia or white rule is South Africa“. Please don’t take us for fools who’d believe that rubbish. Westminster didn’t give a damn for democ in any of the empire as witnessed by Churchill creation of Iraq and the drawing of it’s borders (similar to 6 counties – random). Likewise they didn’t leave SA until they could bleed the economy as much as possible and until the intl pressure of Thatcher’s support of apartheid got too embarrassing.

    “Even in places like India, where the British Empire created a single political entity where none had existed before their arrival (not unlike Ireland) a huge effort was made to create a stable sustainable twin state solution (again not unlike Ireland)”. I don’t think you’ve a grasp on the whole Kashmir aspects and the duplicitous efforts of the empire to muddy the waters on their departure (much like Irel). What about the three Pakistan/Indian wars that then occurred soon after the Raj’s tail-between-legs departure? I don’t think this was as smooth as silk.

    “A simpler and far less complicated solution would have been to simply withdraw and let them fight it out”. Ah, the old ‘demded natives can’t govern themselves argument’ which hasn’t been heard since prior to Mandela and co taking over. Do you really harken back to 100 years ago? Pathetic.

    Therefore KeithM when you spout simplistic nonsense like you did in trying to support anti democ imperialists, all you do is to show your lack of understanding of world history. empires are worse than republics; empires are much the same as dictatorships. There aren’t any that have been successful and generally beneficial – an basic understanding of the history of mankind would show this to all but the most blinded like yourself.

  • Brian Boru

    “This lack of concern would have stretched to English, Scots and Welsh peasants in equal measure.”

    No because they didn’t lose 1/8th of their people to famine nor would they have allowed it to happen – in England at least.

  • Brian Boru

    I reject the thesis that we were “too small to survive” on our own as propagandised by a poster here. Tell that to Denmark. Tell that to the modern Irish state. We are surviving pretty well thank you very much. Construction is going on at an incredible rate. Unemployment is the lowest in the EU after Holland. We don’t need some paternalistic and foreign people telling us how to run our affairs.

  • Shuggie McSporran


    “Even a cursory reading of the history of the British Empire would tell you that they rarely went to war unless it was for financial gain or to protect financial gains. The invasion of Iraq to make it a democracy would have been out of the question.”


    It wasn’t about regime change Gerry, it was to get rid of WMD.

    It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that some of the largest oil reserves on the planet are located in Iraq.

    GerryM, if you and British people in general took the time learn about your British imperial history you might learn to take British imperialist bullshit with a large pinch of salt.

    You could make a start by going to see the film.

  • Shuggie McSporran


    “Like it or not the British saw a stable democracy as their legacy in most of the countries that were part of the empire”

    What about most of the countries of the British Empire that don’t have a stable democracy, like Sierra Leone, Burma, Pakistan, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Northern Ireland….etc

    Do we blame these on your British legacy whether you like it or not?

  • Garibaldy

    As I ready Gerry M’s argument he was saying Iraq was invaded for financial reasons, but I can see how it could be read the other way round.

    I’ve spoken to someone who’s seen the film. It seems that it’s more about the Civil War than the Tan War, so in some senses the debate over Britain in the media has missed the main point of the film. Apparently there’s a scene where a Protestant aristo tells the IRA that if they win their state will be backward and priest-ridden. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the free state.
    The main point of the film seems to be more the breakdown of revolutionary unity rather than the evil Brits from what I’ve been told.

    There’s an interview with Loach in Daily Ireland today on their website, which I won’t link as it screws up the comment page and has to be moderated. But he says Ruth Dudley Edwards has made inaccurate statements in her article.

  • Shuggie McSporran


    “As I ready Gerry M’s argument he was saying Iraq was invaded for financial reasons..”

    You misunderstood him completely.

    He doesn’t believe that the British should confront their imperial history and I originally made the point to him that if British people knew and understood their imperial history they would have been less likely to entertain the notion of invading Iraq.

    Arguing against me, he made the point that the British Empire was about financial gain and the invasion of Iraq was about bringing democracy and therefore not comparable to what went on in the British Empire.


  • Garibaldy


    You’re probably right. Having reread all his posts and yours, it seems to me that he opposes the Iraq war. I still think the phrase we’re talking about is ambiguous. This is why historians have such fun arguing over what people meant in what they wrote centuries ago.

    Gerry M wrote
    “Even a cursory reading of the history of the British Empire would tell you that they rarely went to war unless it was for financial gain or to protect financial gains. The invasion of Iraq to make it a democracy would have been out of the question.”

    The problem here is the word ‘would’. He had made clear he opposed the war, and in this context it makes it possible that he saw it as motivated by gain, and is saying that the idea of invading Iraq to establish democracy was impossible as it was only seeking to hide deeper fiscal motives.

    Although, unlike history in this case Gerry M will clear it up if he wants to.

    Gerry M doesn’t believe that the British should apologise. Neither do I, anymore than the Irish government should have apologised for what happened in Wexford in 1798. It’s unhistorical tokenism of the worst kind.

  • Donnacha

    Mention earlier of the invasion of Ireland on the orders of the then Pope, Nicholas Brakespear, raises an interesting question. If, as is asserted, Henry 2 invaded on the orders of the Pope, then it was as a result of the Donation of Constantine, from where the authority derived. This gave Rome dominion over ALL European islands including Britain. So, if it was okay for Henry to annex Ireland on the say so of the Laudibiliter bull, can we turn back the Reformation? Since all islands are under dominion of Rome, the English/British rulers since Henry VIII have no right to be there at all. Just a thought.
    Oh, and GerryM, as for the indigents of what was the Empire, our economy might not be brilliant down here, but we are hardly indigent. Indigenous is a nice word, though….

  • seanchai

    “No because they didn’t lose 1/8th of their people to famine nor would they have allowed it to happen – in England at least.”

    I think some Scots would be upset to hear you belittle the Highland Clearances as such, not to mention the famine that did strike there at exactly the same time.

  • GeryM

    Rafa, please get back to looking for forwards for next year, you haven’t got time to be bantering on this site. I don’t say that british all the participants on this site hate the Brits by the way. But there are a some and it to those I am addressing my comments. People who suggest that British children should be taught that they belong to a cruel and avaricious race have lost it. My original question was who are the British people who have to come to terms with there past? I have been told I’m one of them, although I have an Irish passport, so I can see if there is no hatred then there are a lot of sad people out there nursing grievances from centuries past. My perspective is if the Irish want to grow as a nation they will have to put the past behind them. If they choose not to do that then they will look as though they have not self-confidence. Anyway back to Melwood for you my lad. I used to live in Deysbrook Lane many years ago.

  • GerryM

    Shugger you misunderstand me again, but I can see why having re-read my post. I didn’t mean to suggest that I thought the Iraq war was about imposing democracy on the people of Iraq. What I meant was that the Imperial Government would not have countenanced spending money on a war to make the lives of the ordinary people better. If you want my opinion as to the reasons for the war the US wanted to control the oil and Haliburton wanted to milk the rebuilding contracts. If asked to go in on that basis the Imperial Government would have jumped at the chance. But Tony didn’t ask for any monetary recompense, he didn’t even insist on getting a share of the re-building allocated to the UK. He put troops there to get himself a legacy. Well, he’s got it now! Incidentally, the opponents of the war were out there with there begging bowls as soon as there was a notion of rebuiling contracts (which the Iraqis will pay for with their oil).

    I don’t want to get embroiled in the yah boo debate on whether the British Empire was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, but I would make an observation on the list of non-democracy’s above. Israel was never part of the British Empire. Britain was the manatory power in Palestine acting on behalf of the League of Nations. Palestine, had of course been part of the Ottoman Empire, which we may have been part of if Charles V had not defeated the Turks in 1529. The British were opposed to the setting up of an Israeli state in Palestine and even went as far as to offer part of Uganda to set up the state. (What a fine mess that would have been) The British reasoned that the Israeli state would cause instability, which it has. Having said that Israel is a democracy. Nepal was never part of the British Empire. The British tried to set up a democratic government in Hong Kong, but the Chinese would have none of it. If you want to see a country that has benefited from colonial rule go to Hong Kong.

  • hovetwo

    “If you want to see a country that has benefited from colonial rule go to Hong Kong.”

    Personally I’d pick Malaysia, or even better Singapore. Kuala Lumpur means, I think, something like muddy swamp in Malay, which is what the river delta was until the rubber barons turned up and developed the infrastructure of the country – although even as I write this I think of the unofficial war the SAS fought on behalf of the Malayan government in the 1950s, where ethnic Chinese “communists” were slaughtered and hundreds of thousands were huddled into “strategic hamlets” – an improvement on Boer War type concentration camps, and a tactic that was borrowed by America in Vietnam.

    Singapore, on the other hand, seems to have had an inspired founding father in Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who encouraged people of all creeds and cultures to settle and prosper there.

    Homg Kong, one of the three largest natural harbours in the world (along with Sydney and, um, Cork), sitting at the bottom of China, could hardly have avoided being prosperous, regardless of colonisation. The fact that trade was opened up with China through the evil Opium Wars of the 19th century, with the connivance and collaboration of America, France, Britain etc., would give me pause for thought in citing it as a positive example of colonialism. But hey, opium was legal in Britain at the time, so foisting it on the Chinese was okay…….

  • DavidD

    My God the amount of mopery on this thread from Briaa, Rory etc is unbelievable. Apparently history began in 1169. For 1000 years before that Great Britain was subject to slave raids, devastation and colonisation from Ireland. By my calculation there is still 150 years of pay-back time due. And an apology from the Dublin government would be in order.