Ken Loach Gets Political at the Lumière Festival

Ken Loach - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Ken Loach - Getty - H 2016


The 83-year-old Loach, whose new feature 'Sorry We Missed You' premiered at Cannes, spoke about the U.K.'s troubled economy, the rise of the far-right, Boris Johnson and Brexit.

British auteur and two-time Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach, whose new film Sorry We Missed You will hit U.K. theaters next month, was on hand at the Lumière Festival in Lyon for a master class much more dedicated to politics than to movies.

Appearing at Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux's annual gala of classic and restored movies, which is now in its 10th edition, Loach was joined on stage by French politician and feminist Clémentine Autain for a lengthy discussion about the state of the world, with a focus on British and European issues, including, of course, Brexit.

"I think we live in a very dangerous time right now," began the 83-year-old director, who has made over 30 features and documentaries since the 1960s, nabbing Cannes' top prize in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes the Barley and then in 2016 for I, Daniel Blake.

"As the economic system collapses, we are seeing the rise of the far-right everywhere — just as we saw many years ago. And we have to combat that any way we can."

During a talk led by Frémaux, and in which Autain, a far-left delegate of the French National Assembly, often expressed her own views and agenda, Loach explained how his political sensibilities were born when he began working for BBC Television in the early '60s.

"The essential truths we learned back then have become more and more clear," the director noted. "And they're simple: Society is divided into two classes, and one exploits the other."

Loach delved into the inspiration behind his latest feature, which premiered in Cannes last May, that depicts the struggles of a working-class family under Britain's ruthless gig economy.

"Two-thirds of new jobs are now precarious," he said, offering up a bitter assessment of the U.K. economy. "Employers can turn jobs on and off like a tap. It's a process that began under Margaret Thatcher."

Frémaux reminded Loach about how he once claimed I, Daniel Blake would be his last movie but then went on to shoot another film. Loach said he was inspired to make Sorry We Missed You by the food banks he visited on the production of Blake, some of which were filled with working families who couldn't afford to eat.

When asked about Brexit, Loach had a mixed opinion. "There is a left-wing case to be made for Brexit, because the European Union backs a free market and has rules against the state support of industry," he said. "But there is also a case to remain in the EU, because the U.K. could sustain solidarity with other European countries to reform the Union together."

"But Brexit is a distraction," he went on, "because the big problems we experienced when we were inside the EU will still be there when we're outside."

He added: "Although if Boris Johnson is running things, they'll be even worse," and then expressed his support for current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who, he said, has been targeted by smear campaigns from the press.

Loach, who was awarded the Prix Lumière in Lyon back in 2012, received a standing ovation at the start of the talk, which began with a moving highlight reel of his work. He received another long ovation at the end, when he saluted the crowd and left them with a slogan he said was used by 19th century American unions: "Agitate, educate, organize."