Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda and Alan Parker’s Come See the Paradise plus Cyrano de Bergerac, Air

America and Child’s Play 2 reviewed.


Limited Intelligence

Kenny Mathieson reports on a new film by the ancien terrible of British political filmmaking, Ken Loach.

Director Ken Loach has never been afraid of controversy in a career which has included landmark British films like Kes and Cathy Come Home. But even he must have been a little taken aback by the rumpus which Hidden Agenda caused amongst the more rightward leaning members ofthe British press (ie most ofthem) when it was launched at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Loach’s film was subject to attack for its political bias and alleged support of the IRA at a stormy press conference, during which Alexander Walker (whose own friendship with the late Ferdinand Marcos has caused friction at Cannes in the past) was accused of being a fascist by an irate Spanish journalist. Later, a deputation of British journalists made an unprecedented complaint to Festival director Gilles Jacob about its inclusion.

Their ire was directed not at the film itself, which is a well crafted, absorbing, but wholly unremarkable piece ofwork on a distinctly television scale, but at the thesis which it propounds. Loach unequivocally denied that it is in any sense pro-IRA, but defends what it has to say about the illegal and immoral abuse of power by the British Intelligence Services within and without the Province.

‘There is incontrovertible proof that British Intelligence officers have told lies about the IRA in Ireland. There have been several instances where the newspapers have covered stories which were absolute inventions of British Intelligence, like the claim that Gaddafi was supplying flying bombs to the IRA, or that they were planning to blow up half of Belfast. We actually spoke to the man who made up that particular lie. They then moved from that to telling lies about British politicians, and a lot of the money for that was routed through the CIA.

‘In Britain, though, the sense of outrage which followed Watergate in America never gets underway, because there is no real public discussion of these revelations. They are made and then ignored, and that is how we deal with embarrassing issues. You can’t shout censorship, because the articles and books are published, but

there is no real public follow up.

‘Even the alleged political victims of these smear campaigns don’t seem to want to make much ofit, possibly because there are other things which they don‘t want to come out, or they are simply content to let things lie in the past. The attitude seems to be that at all costs we have have to preserve the fiction that we live in a democracy.’

Loach’s film draws on the well publicised allegations of Intelligence plots to undermine the Wilson and Callaghan administrations, as well as exposing abuses in Ulster. Scottish actor Brian Cox plays a senior policeman called in to investigate security force involvement in the murder of an American civil rights activist and finds himselfcaught up in a much bigger, even murkier plot.

‘There shouldn’t be any legal problems. All the foreground characters are entirely fictional, it is only the background to the story which is factual, and a lot of the people who were involved in that smear campaign against politicians in Britain have started to speak openly about it now anyway.

‘The question of Ireland is so enormous, but British filmmakers have generally chosen to avoid this huge issue in their back garden. Jim Allen (who wrote the screenplay) and I have wanted to make a film about Ireland for a long time, and the broader theme of the Intelligence Services running out of control actually springs from the situation there. On the other hand, it has to work well as a film and as a story, or everything else falls down, but we want people to

Brian Cox (left) as Kerrigan and Jim Norton as Brodie in [HiddenAgonda


ask questions after they leave the screening.

‘Critics who say the film is too far-fetched are in fact revealing their own laziness, because they clearly have not read the books which have been published on the subject. There are at least three, and they have never been suppressed or withdrawn, or challenged on the basic facts, and that applies equally to the many. many articles in the press.

‘We did a huge amount of research, and we spOke with the men who were inventing these lies, but when we then put this research into the film, film critics too lazy to read the other parts of their newspaper, scream that it is paranoia on our part. British critics are never willing or able to deal with the issues raised in a film.

‘They have also criticised us for having too much historical explanation, but we felt ifwe did not explain why they wanted to put in a right-wing government in the face of an apparent increase in strength ofthe left, then the film just became one set of baddies against another set of baddies, and loses its real point.

‘The British critics hate that kind ofspecific explanation, but I believe we could not avoid it. Costa-Gavros doubtless makes better films than me, but in Missing, I never knew from the film itselfwhat the nature ofthe authoritarian repression actually was, or who was perpetrating it. If you are going to make consciously political statements on film, then I believe that you must supply that essential context.’

Hidden Agenda opens at Edinburgh Cameo and UCI on Friday 18.

The List 11— 24January I99121