He has championed the downtrodden and poor for 50 years, but now Bath film director Ken Loach has returned to make a modern-day version of his breakthrough film Cathy Come Home – a film about the poverty and humiliation inflicted upon them by the welfare state, which left much of the Cannes Film Festival in tears and won him the coveted Cannes Palm d'Or Prize last night in an awards ceremony in southern France.
Cathy Come Home shocked a blissfully-unknowing British society of 1966 to the descent of a wife from a normal family home to living on the streets and having her children taken away – all because her husband is injured at work and loses his job.
And now, 50 years on, the 79 year old Bath film director has returned and created something of a remake – but this time exposing the plight of a man left to the uncaring ravages of the benefits system, which looks set to generate the same shock from audiences across Britain.
. Accepting the festival's top prize, Loach attacked the "dangerous project of austerity,".At times of despair the far right take advantage,” the film-maker said. “And some of us who are old remember what that was like. So we must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible," he said."The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe."
The powerful film tells the story of fifty-nine year old British carpenter Daniel Blake's Kafkaesque journey to get benefits in Britain for the first time in his life after suffering a heart attack and being told by doctors he can no longer work.Turning to the welfare state for assistance, he is confronted with the tragic realities of a modern society bogged down by miles of cold and unfeeling red tape.
Daniel, is just a generous hard-working individual who has simply fallen on hard times,who embodies the very reason social safety nets are created, yet the system engineered ostensibly to give a much-needed break to such decent men seems more intent on pounding its supposed beneficiaries into submission.This might be a piece of art, but this is a familiar tale to all those trapped in the benefit system , and caught in the barbed wire of bureacracy in Tory Britain.
Because Blake is denied illness benefit and is forced to apply for assistance for unemployment.
That in turn forces him to spend hours hunting for jobs which he has to turn down because he is too sick to work.The movie's writer Paul Laverty has said the research team was stunned at how people with mental health issues and disabilities were targeted by the welfare cuts.He said people interviewed within the Department for Work and Pensions told them "they were humiliated at how they were forced to treat the public. There is nothing accidental about it."
Exasperated at every turn by the almost laughable inefficiencies of a blindingly complicated network, Daniel is bounced from one broken program to the next. Whether they be for employment insurance or a job seeker’s allowance, there are always stupefying catches; ridiculous paperwork; and government employees who appear completely incapable of empathizing with the plight of the unfortunate waiting around the corner.
The actress who plays the young single mother, Katie -- Hayley Squires -- who Daniel's character befiends, recently slammed anti-welfare "propaganda" that she said has turned working class people against each other. "Normal people are led to believe that this amount of people are on benefits and are therefore scroungers, and this amount of people are going to work to pay so that they can scrounge." "They've left us to argue among ourselves so they can keep doing what they are doing."
For the Conservatives, the ideological destruction of peoples lives has always been their clear aim. For them austerity isn't a temporary economic measure, it's a permanent moral imperative. I look forward to the day, when we say enough is enough. In the meantime well done Ken for this award and for continuing to lend the poor and downtrodden a voice,telling real honest stories of lives ruined by a cruel system that continues to unleash savage attacks on Britain's poor.I hope that this film and its powerful indictment of life under Tory rule and the austerity myth and all it's savage impacts is seen by many and as the star of the film , stand up comic Dave Johns recently tweeted, like Cathy Comes home, 50 years previously "Let's hope it shames those that should be into change.".