Ken Loach claims second Palme D'Or at Cannes Film Festival


Veteran British filmmaker Ken Loach has won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film I, Daniel Blake, the second time he has clinched the prestigious prize.

The 79-year-old director and veteran left-wing activist took the top accolade at the international film festival for his story of a former Newcastle joiner who struggles in the welfare system after becoming ill.

Loach has had 12 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival through his long career, including The Wind That Shakes The Barley, which took the Palme D'Or in 2006.

Loach, whose past classics include 1969's Kes, was up against a host of international stars for the prize. They included Spanish Oscar-winner Pedro Almodovar, Sean Penn and Paul Verhoeven.

He was not the only British winner at Cannes - Andrea Arnold's road movie American Honey, starring Shia LaBeouf, won the Prix du Jury (Jury Prize).

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund said: "What a moment for British cinema, and for two important and humane films with so much to say.

"Bravo to Ken and to Andrea and their collaborators - including the unstoppable Robbie Ryan who shot both films. This is cinema from the heart, and we're grateful that we have an industry that can support such personal, powerful film-making."

Labour's shadow business secretary Angela Eagle was among those who congratulated Loach, tweeting: "Well done Ken Loach!"

Her party colleague Angela Rayner (Droylsden and Failsworth) added: "Absolutely made up for Ken Loach on his film I, Daniel Blake which has won the Palme D'Or at Cannes Film Festival."

The film tells the story of the eponymous Daniel Blake, who, after having a heart attack, crosses paths with single mother of two Katie, who moves to Newcastle from London, 300 miles away.

The Cannes website said the characters "find themselves in no-man's land caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of 'striver and skiver' in modern day Britain",

Loach founded far-left political party Left Unity in 2013 in an attempt to replace the Labour Party and challenge its "neoliberalism".

At a press conference in Cannes, Loach was asked if he saw his film as an indictment of the European Union.

"I think the European Union is embodying neoliberalism. You see it in the way they humiliated the Greek people. It has caused hardship and poverty for millions of people and a great struggle for a lot of other people who are not desperate but they are having a hard time.

"So you just tell one little story, one of the consequences of the many millions of people, tell one little story, and you just hope it connects, it connects to people.

"And that's what we try to do," he said.

Earlier this month, Loach voiced hesitant support for the UK to remain in the EU in the upcoming referendum.

He said at the time: "The EU, as it stands, is a neo-liberal project. How do we fight it best, within or without?

"On balance, I think we fight it better within and we make alliances with other European left movements. But it's a dangerous, dangerous moment."

Commenting on the fact he has won the prestigious prize for a second time, Loach told the press conference it is "extraordinary" because it is "the same little gang" from 2006.

"It's just nice to be in that team. Our breath has been taken away, I have to say, because we weren't really expecting to come back. So we are quietly stunned," he said.

Asked about his plans for the future, Loach gave nothing away, saying: "When you get very old you're just pleased to see the sunrise the next day, so we'll just take each day as it comes."

Loach was asked if filmmaking is all about being faithful to the same societal issues, and he said: "I suppose what we've tried to do is to make the drama of everyday life the subject of the films but that encompasses a huge spectrum of events and emotions, and things that happen.

"It's the whole of family life, it's the whole of your working life, it's your relationships to your partner, to a girlfriend, to a boyfriend."

He said the work we do, the places we are born, the class we are born into all determine who we become, the relationships we have, and the choices we make.

"They're all constrained by the social and economic circumstances we find ourselves in," he said.

Paul Laverty, who wrote the screenplay for I, Daniel Blake, said the beauty of coming to Cannes and seeing how people have been touched by the story has really surprised him.

He also talked about the "remarkable" people they met at a food bank in Glasgow.

"When you hear their stories and how articulate, and sharp and bright they are. And it breaks the stereotype of how people are being portrayed on television and the right wing press in the most vicious and poisonous fashion," he said.

Laverty also spoke of the "marvellous" people they met at a food bank in Newcastle.

"What is remarkable isn't the sob stories you hear, it's just how resourceful people are, how determined they are, how furious that they're stereotyped as scroungers," he said.

The anger of those people fed into the screenplay, he told the press conference.