Films are part of the entertainment industry – but they can also change lives. So it was in 1966 when Cathy Come Home, a BBC TV play directed by Ken Loach, exposed the ruthlessness of private landlords and how easy it was to descend into a spiral of homelessness.
Today, half a century later, Ken Loach is on the verge of repeating this success with I, Daniel Blake – a film which shows the iniquities and senselessness of the welfare benefits system. It’s not dull polemic: the problems caused by (rather than solved by) the benefits system are told by Daniel Blake, a man in his 50s who becomes unemployed after having a heart attack.
The film has already won Loach a Palme d’Or, the second of his career, at the Cannes Film Festival. That makes it one for the film buffs: but to spread its message and change lives the way that Cathy did, we need thousands more to go to see it.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, who saw the film at its premier this week, had no doubts that the movie deserves a large audience. “If there’s one thing you do this year, go and see I, Daniel Blake,” he said, “I went to see it last night and it’s one of the most moving films I’ve seen. Ken Loach tells the story of Daniel who has had a major heart attack, his doctor has told him he is too ill to work, but the Department for Work and Pensions say he has to get a job. So many people in Britain go through the indignity portrayed in this film, at the hands of our benefit system, due to this Conservative Government’s failed and unfair policies.
“Ken Loach recently said, ‘If you’re not angry about it, what kind of person are you?’ In our busy day-to-day lives, where so many people are trying to make ends meet, it is easier to shut out the difficulties other people face. But for one evening, don’t – go and see this film. You’ll come out angry, but demanding change.”
•I, Daniel Blake can be seen at Cineworld in West India Quay and at Stratford Picturehouse from Friday, 21st October. Watch the official trailer at: https://youtu.be/ahWgxw9E_h4