Brexit Will Prove Troublesome for Filmmakers, Predicts Ken Loach

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Ken Loach

The director of 'I, Daniel Blake' and many other radical movies says ending EU free movement will come at a cost to co-productions.

Ken Loach, British filmmaker and champion of radical causes, says Brexit — the U.K.'s planned withdrawal from the European Union — will put obstacles in the way of funding U.K. co-productions.

The veteran filmmaker — whose commitment to films that promote radical social and political causes stretches back to the 1960s with TV drama Cathy Come Home and features such as Kes — says that although Britain's recent general election ended in a hung parliament with its prime minister, Theresa May, much weakened, some form of Brexit is likely.

"There will be some form of leaving the EU," said Loach. "Our co-production deals depend on workers from other countries coming to [the U.K.] to work on our films. If it is made very bureaucratic and difficult, if we leave EU, that will make it more difficult and there is a danger that could happen."

Loach, alongside his longtime filmmaking partner and scriptwriter Paul Laverty, spoke Tuesday to The Hollywood Reporter at the 52nd edition of the Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary Film Festival, where the duo received Crystal Globes for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema. 

Loach said that ending the free movement of people — a key policy that drove a narrow majority of British electors last year to vote to leave the EU — would add a new level of bureaucracy to making movies that depend on international funding.

"If free movement stops and it becomes a big bureaucratic process for people to work in Britain, then that is going to inhibit [co-productions] because it is cumbersome," he said.

If that did happen, Loach predicted that "a lot of producers and distributors" would "just not bother" with making co-productions.

Loach and Laverty — the only writing-directing team to have won two Palme d'Or awards at Cannes, most recently last year with I, Daniel Blake, a hard-hitting condemnation of the human cost of British social welfare policies — have collaborated with Belgium on several of their recent films, receiving funds and employing specialists from that country.

"Free movement enables Belgians to come, so if free movement stops, that will throw a spanner in the works," Loach said.

He said some form of Brexit will eventually happen, as it would be "political suicide" for any British politician to ignore the result of last year's referendum, but he believes that concessions to enable to co-productions with EU countries will be necessary.

Loach thinks the European Film Academy — which is an independent body of film professionals established 30 years ago that is not part of the EU — could have a part to play "in negotiating easy movement of people for film co-production."

A supporter of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Loach said any future Labour government "would be right to resist … a continuous pool of available cheap [EU] labor that undermines collective agreements that [British labor] unions have made."

Laverty added that if business leaders in the U.K. could argue that they have a role to play in steering the Brexit negotiations with the EU, then there should also be "special delegations about workers' rights, consumer or environmental issues."

As for future projects, Loach said he and Laverty are mulling ideas but are currently still busy with hosting community screenings of I, Daniel Blake as part of their commitment to supporting grassroots citizen political debate.

At a separate Karlovy Vary event earlier Tuesday, Loach also said he supported a campaign to pressure British rock band Radiohead to pull out of a planned concert in Israel on July 19 as "the Palestinian people have asked for a cultural boycott [of Israel] while it keeps making the lives of Palestinians impossible, killing people with impunity, breaking the Geneva Convention and taking Palestinian lands."

He added: "There is still time for Radiohead [to reconsider]. There is another letter going out saying don't support a state that many consider apartheid. We urge people not to support Israeli cultural projects that have the backing of the state of Israel, not [to boycott] individual artists."

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