Cannes: Ken Loach Slams "Conscious Cruelty" in Welfare System, Urges Against Brexit

Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Ken Loach

The director discussed 'I, Daniel Blake,' the first film since his supposed final feature.

Two years after he came to Cannes with what was thought to be his final feature film, Jimmy's Hall, festival favorite Ken Loach met the press once more to discuss his latest offering, I, Daniel Blake.

The welfare polemic about a disabled man struggling with the bureaucracy of the U.K. benefits system was mostly praised by the press after its first screening, underlined by a prolonged round of applause when the filmmaker entered the room, alongside cheers of "Bravo!"

But after the cheers, the mood took a more somber tone, as Loach used the film's topics to attack the "conscious cruelty" with which welfare systems organize lives, not just in the U.K., but across Europe.

"It's shocking. The poorest are being told that poverty is all their own fault, that it's their fault that they haven't got a job," he said. "Vulnerable people are being caught, disabled people are being caught."

Loach added that the film was one he hoped would "break your heart and make you angry."

But despite the attacks against the current system in the U.K., Loach asserted that the situation would be significantly worse were Britain to vote to leave the European Union in the so-called Brexit referendum on June 23.

"The EU is a neo-liberal project, it's not doing us any favors," Loach said. "But if we leave, we know individual governments would move us to the right as far as possible, putting big business to the front. We'd be faced with a far-right government if we leave."

The filmmaker suggested that the most powerful method to influence the EU would be as member. "The best way is to fight from within, with other left groups from around Europe, than from without," he said.

THR reviewer David Rooney wrote that I, Daniel Blake "is quintessential Loach, which means you have a good idea of what you're getting as soon as the core elements are established. And yet while the framework and perspective are familiar, the veteran Brit director's films can still have the power to grip us in an emotional chokehold."

Loach won the Palme d'Or for 2006 war drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley.