“The Old Oak” honors working class unity again by Ken Loach 2023
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“The Old Oak” honors working class unity again by Ken Loach 2023

At the Cannes Film Festival, 86-year-old British director Ken Loach demonstrated his combative spirit by presenting his latest poignant homage to working class solidarity and declaring, “We’re still in the game.”

Loach has had no less than fifteen films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and has twice won the festival’s highest award, the Palme d’Or.

In his 16th entry, “The Old Oak,” which premiered on Friday, May 26th, his commitment to left-leaning causes and depicting the brutal reality of working-class Britain remains undimmed.

It recounts the tale of a struggling tavern in an impoverished northern England ex-mining town, whose proprietor aids Syrian refugees despite his own problems.

Deadline referred to it as a “vital, moving social parable,” while The Guardian called it a “ferocious final call for compassion.”

Loach stated that despite pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain, many working-class communities have demonstrated solidarity with refugees.

“We have a tradition of solidarity born out of industrial struggle,” Loach told AFP during the festival. There are entire groups of individuals who advocate for refugees.

After the 2016 Palme d’Or-winning “I, Daniel Blake” and “Sorry We Missed You,” “The Old Oak” was a much-needed shot of optimism, according to him.

“Without hope, despair ensues, and then you’re vulnerable to the far right, which destroys us,” said Loach.

“The working class is not defeated, we’re still in the game.”

"The Old Oak" honors working class unity again by Ken Loach 2023 3

When asked if he was still directing in his mid-80s, Loach quipped, “If you wake up and read the obituaries and you’re not in them, it’s a fine day. But I’ve been fortunate to maintain some health.”

Hard work

Paul Laverty, Loach’s longtime writing collaborator, praised the director’s dedication, stating that he labored late for months to cast the film with local actors.

“That was the equivalent of six months of hard labor,” Laverty said, before joking, “That’s fine when you’re 30, but when you’re 105…”

Laverty was considerably less complimentary about British politicians, stating that Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s infamous anti-immigrant rhetoric exhibited “remarkable cruelty.”

Laverty stated, “She is a scumbag who lives off the misery of others.”

Historically, solidarity meant “joining together and sharing,” according to Loach.

“Today, charity means giving a small amount to the poor, provided they are grateful and deserving, don’t make a fuss, and don’t appear to be victims.”

Loach stated, in reference to the deterioration of the National Health Service, that “the extent of the crisis is catastrophic.”

Britain’s image is controlled by the most sophisticated political class in the world, but if you examine inside, it’s corrupt to the core.

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