Ten days ago, there was a rumor on the Internet that the films by Ken Loach (Nuneaton, England, 83 years old) were going to be released on his YouTube channel. It made no sense: the audiovisual rights to the works belong to different companies depending on the territories in which they have been sold and the times stipulated in each contract, but after contacting Loach to deny the possibility, a door opened: he wanted a talk .
This was how last Thursday, first thing in the Spanish morning, sooner still in Bath, the city in the south-west of England where the double winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes lives – for The wind that shakes the barley Y I Daniel Blake-, the phone rang. Hi, this is Ken. How are you?”. Loach’s voice is very characteristic: brittle and aching, soft, instead it involves a firm speech in favor of human and workers’ rights. An example: in 1971 the NGO Save The Children – which at that time was nothing like the current one – hired him to shoot a documentary about his work. Loach filmed it, handed it over and the managers of Save The Children hid the film in a drawer: even though they were the clients, the filmmaker decided to show the racism and classism of what at that time was “an evil charity company understood, ”he said years later. Since 1990 with Hidden agenda, it has become the most popular voice of left-wing auteur cinema. And very attentive to the dehumanization of new technologies at work, as his latest film showed, Sorry We Missed You (2019).
Question. How are you?
Answer. All right. With my wife. Quiet. And worried. I spend time talking to friends.
P. Are you working on something?
R. Not in something concrete. I speak to Paul [Laverty, su coguionista, que vive en Edimburgo] a lot, but I’m not in the mood.
P. The pandemic does not breathe.
R. I live in a country with an incompetent government. There were no contingency plans, with doctors and nurses working without adequate protection, leaving caregivers of the elderly, and therefore, those elderly. They knew the virus was coming and did not anticipate. I can understand governments like the Spanish or the Italian, because they were the first to face the Covid-19 in Europe, but the British? You were shutting yourself up in Spain, and I want to send my solidarity to the families of the deceased in your country, and here Boris Johnson prioritized saving the economy rather than his fellow citizens. It is a resounding failure. They live for the markets, and the markets left them stranded. The information that has come to us about who could or should not have been absolutely confusing. Of course there are industries that have to work, but in safe buildings, right? Although in adequate conditions. And this confusion has caused a wave of rage …
P. How would you rate Boris Johnson?
A. The situation is very reminiscent of that of a century ago, when the First World War began. Hundreds of thousands of young soldiers were sent to the front to die, treated like donkeys. Today Johnson treats healthcare personnel the same: as donkeys.
P. It has always been defined as optimistic. Even now?
R. [risas] It depends on how we measure it. I suppose it has to do with the people around you, even with who governs you. Today, of course, I am not. I am quite scared by my family. My children and grandchildren live in London and Bristol, and they are risk areas ravaged by an uncontrolled virus.
P. You filmed a documentary, The spirit of 45, on the spirit of solidarity that united the British during World War II, and the possibility of creating a more just society at the end of the war. Could we live a similar moment?
R. Well, the difference is that then people wanted a change. And there was leadership on that path. Until the politicians put an end to it. Here today Jeremy Corbyn has been removed from the leadership of the Labor Party after years of outrageous attacks. And I fear that Labor will once again become a decaffeinated center. We have lost the opportunity, the mood is different.
P. There is also great concern across Europe about the dismantling of the welfare state.
R. It may be the end … or his rebirth. Because people have understood the need for adequate public health. Only the public will take us forward. Do you know what I’ve seen over the years? That we are always fighting the same battles. And again. Lack of principles leads to lack of organization, which in turn leads to poor analysis. And the chips fall. This is what furious capitalism leads us to.
P. Is it time to bet even more on democracy?
R. Yes, but Hitler won an election. It is time for good analysis and solidarity and help. It’s that Trump was elected by voters! Democracy has always been full of good intentions, and has always been exploited by the corrupt. Politicians must look less at themselves and more at voters, at the battered working class. We continue to live the conflict between the exploited and those who take the money. And we live the triumph of propaganda, financed by the parties of the right and far right. These days, as a small example, I am again under attack from my anti-Israel position. I have been suffering from them for 30 years. Fortunately, my Jewish friends understand that I am against the behavior of a state that oppresses Palestinians, and not against a religion.
P. Brexit already sounds like a distant nightmare.
R. But it’s still there, nothing will change. I want to see how the European Union is going to change, if it is going to be able to become more than just an economic partnership and protect Europeans. And to protect democracy even among its members, not allowing steps such as those taking place in Hungary.
P. Do you have time to watch movies? There is a wave of culture free or accessible from home.
R. No way! With answering letters my time runs out. I walk something because I live on the outskirts. I speak to the family. I enjoy more of the simple things. Now, I believe that culture must have a value, because its creators must be remunerated.
P. Does it come to daily applause?
R. No, because I only have witnesses to the birds and the trees. But I constantly think of the health personnel, and the hypocrisy of the Government of sending them without adequate material and at the same time applauding every afternoon.