Hour-long film made for Save the Children in 1969 will be shown as part of major retrospective at the British Film Institute
By Stephen Bates
20 July 2011
His television documentaries on trade unions in the 1980s were pulled from broadcasting and his film Hidden Agenda found few cinemas willing to show it. In September, however, an hour-long documentary film that he made for the Save the Children charity in 1969 is finally to get an airing as part of a major retrospective at the British Film Institute (BFI).
The reasons for the ban remain obscure. It seems to have had something to do with the director's pugnacious take on race, class and charity in a capitalist society, or perhaps the quotation from Engels that prefaced what was supposed to be a celebration of the charity's 50th anniversary.
Save the Children has finally lifted its embargo. There are still legal problems to sort out, but the BFI is confident it will be screened before an audience as opposed to a handful of archivists on 1 September.
Loach said: "It is a good story, but I have been told to button my lip for a while longer." Speaking at the BFI, Loach was in reflective mood the day after the Murdochs' appearance before the Commons committee – "that gave a great deal of pleasure" – but unhappy with the MPs who questioned them: "So timid, so ill-prepared, they failed to land a punch ... I am not sure you could make a film about it at the moment though. It's the part they play in our society, over our means of communication ... our news is determined by someone with big quantities of money."
He also confirmed that he refused an OBE as far back as 1979, long before his films attacking the effects of Thatcherism. He said: "I didn't want anything to do with something that celebrates the British empire ... and when you look on the other members, it's not a group you want to join. They should publish a list of refuseniks every year, as well as acceptances – that would encourage others to turn it down too."
The BFI is planning to show all the director's feature films, documentaries and television dramas, stretching back to the seminal plays Up the Junction and Cathy Come Home, in the autumn to mark Loach's 75th birthday. The season will include a day-long showing of the 1975 BBC series Days of Hope, chronicling working class life from the first world war to the General Strike, which lasts a shade under seven hours, as well as more recent work such as The Wind That Shakes the Barley - Loach's Palme d'Or-winning take on the early 20th century struggle for Irish independence - Looking for Eric and Route Irish. There will be separate screenings in Bath, Sheffield, Belfast and Glasgow.
The director has just finished shooting his latest film, The Angels' Share. Meanwhile, he has donated his archives to the institute, including shooting scripts, notes, schedules, budgets, on-location photographs and notes on training kestrels made at the time of the shooting of what is still probably his best-known film, Kes, in 1969.
The 12 boxes of documents delivered to the institute include fan letters from Alan Bennett and Neil Kinnock as well as Channel 4's duty logs reporting abusive calls after the screening of a documentary during the miners' strike, and even an Eric Cantona mask used in Looking for Eric.
Asked what he thought of 3D films, Loach replied that he saw them as a distraction: "I rather deplored the move to colour from black and white."