Acclaimed director Ken Loach addresses the Hist

newsAddressing members of the College Historical Society (Hist) on Wednesday, award-winning film director Ken Loach recalled his struggle to present alternative points of view at a time when the state was “ruthless in their suppression of the weak.” Starting his address by reminiscing about the Thatcher régime, Loach talked about a documentary he made, called “The Question of Leadership.” It featured interviews of factory workers speaking out against the cronyism of union leadership: “Faced with strikes, the union leaders did deals to sell our jobs. Faced with factory closures, they did deals to accept the closures after a certain period.”

When the film wasn’t shown on national television, they took it to Channel 4: “The programs were never seen. And what makes me angry is that it wasn’t me who was censored. These were people who had never been on television, whose voice was never heard.”

Moving to “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” he said he has been asked how he feels telling the story, as an Englishman: “My ancestors were farm labourers, and my father’s family worked in the mines. The same people who exploited my family exploited yours, so what we share is class, not nationality.” He commented on Gordon Brown’s statement that Britain needs to stop apologising for the empire: “I’ve never heard anyone apologise for the British Empire, and it was a reign of terror.”

Despite the contentious nature of his work, Loach says that you can’t focus on an agenda too much: “The first duty is to the material. You find stories that you feel reveal more than the simple narrative of the characters. If you are true to your characters they tell their story, but they also reveal the wider society around them. Just by studying that microcosm you can reveal the whole society.”

He finished by telling the chamber about a play he made about a Jewish leader in Hungary during the Holocaust, who helped the Nazis get Jews into the trains to Auschwitz in exchange for saving a small number of them to go to Palestine: “There was outrage about this racist, anti-Semitic piece … No one challenged the key fact of collaboration, and it remains unchallenged … The tolerance of this political ideology of zionism has left us with the great cause of our time, that of Palestine.”

He ended by asking the crowd to take action: “Our politicians will do nothing. So what do we do? The answer is we have to boycott. It’s the only way.”

Photo: Huda Awan

Dee Courtney

Dee was Online Editor of Trinity News and a senior sophister History and Political Science student.