Still angry, Ken Loach finds it hard not to be pessimistic

Sun May 15, 2016 10:15am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Fifty years after TV play "Cathy Come Home" shocked viewers with its grim depiction of the slide into homelessness, director Ken Loach is still angry about the precarious reality of life on the breadline in Britain, and tries not to be too pessimistic.

In his latest film "I, Daniel Blake", at the Cannes Film Festival, Loach, 79, shows how Britain's social security system conspires to drive a downtrodden carpenter and a single mother of two into poverty in the northeastern city of Newcastle.

Stand-up comedian Dave Johns plays joiner Daniel who is denied disability benefits when unable to work through illness. He befriends young mother Katie, played by Hayley Squires, as they battle with the welfare system.

"I am optimistic in the people's capacity to fight back, but in the short term there is so much to do and not enough people to do it," Loach told Reuters in an interview. "I try not to be pessimistic."

To research the film, Loach visited his home town in the middle of Britain along with screenwriter Paul Laverty to meet people struggling to make ends meet - and left morose.

    "We met one lad who was living in a charity room and he had a mattress on the floor. He had nothing in his fridge, no food, and the week before he hadn't eaten for four days," said Loach.

In the film, Katie, who is driven to becoming an escort girl, eats out of a tin can from a food bank after starving herself to feed her children, while Dan prefers to sell his furniture than accept a friend's money.

    "The story in the film is about real people. It could be your dad, it could your grandfather, it could be your daughter, it could be your sister," said Johns.   Continued...

Director Ken Loach poses on the red carpet as he arrives for the screening of the film "I, Daniel Blake" in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Yves Herman