Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On Wind, Barley and Ken Loach

I've long been an admirer of Ken Loach's films. His gritty tales of ordinary people who find themselves caught up in extraordinary situations with a distinct lack of Hollywood style glitz and glamour and his policy of employing non-professional actors generally result in quality cinema. Loach is not afraid to deal with sensitive or controversial topics in his work. There was Carla's Song about the war in Nicaragua, Land and Freedom about the Spanish Civil War and My Name is Joe on the themes of alcoholism and social deprivation.

His latest film The Wind that shakes the Barley about the events leading up to the Irish Civil War of 1922 has come in for much criticism both within the blogosphere and the mainstream media since winning the coveted Palme d'Or award at Cannes. It has been labelled "anti-British" by many commentators mainly because of its alleged portrayal of the brutality meted out by the Black and Tans and the analogy Loach draws with the current situation in Iraq. So several weeks before its release unionists and right wingers have rubbished it, while nationalists and lefties have hailed it as a cinematic masterpiece - even though hardly anyone from either camp has actually seen the film.


George Monbiot (who unlike many of its critics has actually seen the film) has an article in today's Guardian which analyses the point of view of both sides.

He sums it up perfectly in the following paragaraph:

There is no question that the IRA also killed ruthlessly - not just police and soldiers but also people they deemed to be informers and collaborators. But Loach shows this too. (I have seen the film.) The press hates him because he admits that the people who committed these acts were not evil automata, but human beings capable of grief, anger, love and pity. So too, of course, were the British forces, whose humanity is always emphasised by the newspapers. Ken's crime is to have told the other side of the story.

Monbiot's article has sparked off a lively debate on the Guardian blog site which has come to resemble a typical thread on Slugger O'Toole with all viewpoints represented.
It seems that Loach has simply presented the facts as they are, but I think the comparison of the British occupation of Ireland to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq is somewhat far-fetched. For a start Ireland has never had any significant oil resources.

However, I haven't seen the film, so unlike those critics who have chosen to denounce it and the others who have chosen to glorify it, I will reserve judgment until I've actually seen it.


Lorainne said...

Agree that Brits in Iraq has not a lot of connection to situation in Ireland. Some people say the Irish situation is similar to Israel & Palestine. What do you think Ciaran??

Fence said...

I was actually surprised at how much baching the film recieved when very few people have seen it yet.

CW said...

Lorainne, while the general trend is that nationalists tend to be sympathetic towards the Palestinians and unionists towards the Israelis, the situation is much more complex than this and it's dangerous to oversimplify it by making shallow comparisons of this nature.

Fence, totally agree with you here. BTW, congrats on Munster's well-deserved Heineken Cup win - I suppose you're still in celebratory mood?

Fence said...

I'm glad you managed to figure out what baching means ;) I really should learn to reread before hitting the submit buttom. But it seems that I'm incapable of doing so.

I'll be celebrating even more if we manage to beat the All Blacks on sat. But I'm a bit annoyed that it is only being shown on Sky Sports, going to a pub at 8 is the morning is just wrong.

CW said...

I guessed from the context what "baching" means, but still don't know what your intended word was!
The All Blacks should be a tall order, but good luck to Munster.

CW said...

On a further note, it was interesting to read David Adams' column in today's Irish Times (9th June), in which he mentions a debate on Radio Ulster between Ruth Dudley-Edwards and Tim Pat Coogan about the film, which neither party had seen. Predictably enough, Edwards was scathing, while Coogan heaped praise on it. Adams makes the point that historians tend to judge (or as he says "in this case pre-judge") history to conform to their own political viewpoint thus clinging to their own conflicting versions of the same history.

Fence said...

Bashing :)

I didn't read that article. I'll take a look on Monday when I get into work.

CW said...

There's also a Slugger O'Toole now on the Monbiot article.

Lorainne said...

Ciaran I am aware the situation in NI is complex and of course my comparison with Israel/Palestine was a very general one. My way of looking at history (my way of looking at everything in fact) is to take an overview then consider details later. I think it is better to look for similarities and comparisons both in politics and in human relations than to concentrate on differences. Sorry if you consider that to be shallow!!!!