Brits disclaim their prize winning director - Irish happy to take him
Director of Tan War film The Wind that Shakes the Barley rejects British tabloid ‘vitriol’ against his work saying ‘partition has failed’ and the unionist veto should be replaced ‘by a way of unravelling the sad legacy of the 1921 treaty’
The acclaimed film-maker Ken Loach yesterday hit back at British press criticism of his award-winning film on the Tan War.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Ireland last night, the 69-year-old director said some of the criticism had been of an “amazingly vitriolic and personal nature”.
He said it had been movitated by a “deep-seated imperialist guilt” over the partition of Ireland and the subsequent years of conflict that had resulted.
Mr Loach said the British government should now acknowledge that “partition had failed”. He said the “unionist veto” on political progress should be replaced by a way of “unravelling the sad legacy of the 1921 Treaty.”
The Wind That Shakes the Barley won the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the Cannes film festival last Sunday but was savaged by several tabloid newspapers this week. Mr Loach was accused of propagating anti-British sentiment.
The film depicts events during the IRA’s guerrilla campaign against British rule during the 1920s. It stars Cillian Murphy as an Irish medical student who takes up arms against a reign of terror by the Black and Tans, the notorious auxiliary force sent in to quell calls for independence.
On Sunday, a nine-person jury at Cannes, headed by the Chinese director Wong Kar-wai, returned a unanimous decision to give the top award to the director, who had previously been nominated on seven occasions.
Mr Loach told guests at the gala closing ceremony: “Our film, we hope, is about the British confronting their imperialist history and maybe if we tell the truth about the past, we will have the truth about the present.”
Mr Loach also drew parallels between what was depicted in the film and the current occupation of Iraq.
A series of vitriolic attacks on the director by several right-wing tabloids followed. The Sun said the film had a plot “designed to drag the reputation of our nation through the mud”.
“It portrays British soldiers as trigger-happy mercenaries hooked on torture, burning cottages for kicks and using pliers to rip out the toenails of innocent Irish victims.
“At the same time, cold-blooded republican butchers star as figures of heroic bravery,” wrote columnist Harry MacAdam.
The Independent said the film’s graphic depiction of the Black and Tans had “come across like a recruiting campaign for the IRA”.
Ruth Dudley Edwards, writing in the Daily Mail, accused the director of contriving to portray the “British as sadists and the Irish as romantic, idealistic resistance fighters” to suit a political agenda.
Mr Loach said the criticism had not once challenged the veracity of the film.
“Not one of the criticisms managed to directly challenge the script’s content. It was instead based on vitriolic personal attacks and inaccuracies,” the director said.
“Ruth Dudley Edwards’ piece, in particular, was amazing. I never, as she claimed, had four films banned by the BBC or was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, for example.”
Mr Loach said the press coverage had been a “knee-jerk reaction” by those who were incapable of facing Britain’s colonial past and who felt threatened by being confronted with aspects of their own history.
“Exposing colonialism in its brutality is something the British ruling class react violently against. Guilt is embedded deeply in the consciousness of the political class,” Mr Loach said.
He added that Ireland held a special place among the colonies because society was still living with the legacy of colonialism and this also accounted for the media reaction.
“People can only understand the conflict in the North by understanding its roots in the Treaty. Once people do, it makes it harder for others to represent the Irish conflict as a case of ‘the Irish just can’t get along’. It may account therefore for some of the press hostility,” he said.
When asked whether a British prime minister should publicly renounce, on behalf of the government, Britain’s colonial history as being wrong in principle, Mr Loach replied: “They are incapable of doing so. Imperialism is in their blood and their words do not mean much of anything.
“They will not because they are pursuing an imperialist agenda in Iraq and elsewhere. To acknowledge they were wrong in the past would be to acknowledge that they are wrong now.”
However, the film director said the British government should openly acknowledge the failure of partition and work towards dismantling the unionist political veto over change in Ireland. “Partition has been a failure. It has resulted in decades of political strife and death. It created a failed statelet.
“The British government should publicly acknowledge this and work towards unravelling the mess it created. The unionist veto on change must be removed. This must be achieved reasonably but certainly it must begin with an acceptance that partition has failed,” he said.
by Mick Hall Daily Ireland June 1 2006