After three controversial decades of films that catalogue the contemporary state of working-class Britain, KEN LOACH casts his eye back to the Spanish Civil War in Land And Freedom. Alan Morrison discovers why ‘No pasaran!’ will be the cry at the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival Opening Gala.

hink back over school Ladybird. [Admin], why would Britain’s history lessons. and what most consistently committed cinematic voice comes to mind are kings and of the Left take on a subject so far from queens, inventors and home and so distant from today?

generals. all neatly ‘Three reasons, really.‘ he answers. ‘First

of all. it’s one of the great stories of the 20th century, the first major war against

arranged in a succession of dates learned parrot-fashion. A

shortbread-box sense of against FZISCiSm. When Britain Scotland’s past. with no had feelings that it would be deeper political better if the Fascists x

understanding of how won.

then relates to now. It’s ' 1' ‘1 _ Secondly. unlikely, therefore, ' it was a great that the majority of de0n§tralI0n Scots will have a ( Of . SOlldarIIy by grasp of [he / .workingpeo’ple who complexities , risked their lives “and of the crossed frontiers to light Spanish Civil FaSCism and .to budd a War beyond better socrety. To vague ideas of . celebrate ' that Franco, the international solidarity international was a very important thing.

Brigades and I}; ‘The third reason was to tell maybe the ' 1’ the story of the revolution that horrors of happened Within the CM] War, PicaSSO’S Guernica. ‘when people took. control of the And yet it is to this that I "I factories. collectivised the land, director Ken Loach " took control oftheir resources,their

labour power. That was a great

has turned for his i; . . A. » _moment, and again something that

latest film, [and , And Freedmn. " we tend not to know much about. After [he " We wanted to tell that story, but

also to explain why it

immediate . ' I collapsed - why it wasn’t


relevance of KIM necessary for it to collapse, p r e v i o u s ,1? I ., .1 \ but why it ended. I think works such I, A today, when we have mass as Cathy s " unemployment and the C 0 m e g Fascists are on the H 0 m e, { I . i, streets again in some Hidden " 3 parts of Europe, it’s a Agenda V I", story that we should do a n d 3'; well to remember, ' because the people

who write history are

the people who

control the present.’ Plenty of aims and intentions here, but Loach is a canny enough filmmaker not

{ to lose his audience

16 The List 11-17 Aug 1995

Political animal: Ken Loach

in a deluge of soapbox rant. In Jim Allen’s script, the finer political and historical points are allowed to emerge through an emotionally accessible story told in simple human terms. David Carr (Ian Hart) leaves behind Liverpool and his fiancee in 1936 to join a section of the POUM Militia on the Aragon front. He befriends lrish, French, Spanish, American and Scottish comrades, and - as this is a volunteers’ army, where women light side by side with men he falls in love with Blanca, a Spanish revolutionary.

When he is injured by a faulty rifle, David succumbs to the arguments of the Communist- backed ‘Popular Army’ and their more ‘professional’ military structure, complete with better equipment. It is only now, however, that David is able to see first-hand how the Stalinists have, for their own gain, used the International Brigades to crush the revolutionary Militia. Socialist turns his gun on socialist, and David is forced to witness the betrayal of his cause.

The story is told in flashback, as David’s granddaughter in present-day Liverpool browses through the letters and newspaper clippings stashed away in a dusty box. lt’s Loach’s way of saying that these personal stories and historical facts have also been hidden from sight by successive European governments. For the director, however, this storytelling technique provides more than just a route into the past for young, contemporary viewers. lt proves to them that history is continuous, that commitment and hunger for political knowledge need not be dead and buried in the 90s. When asked what would be worth fighting for today, Loach points, obviously, to the defence of a multi-ethnic

‘Today, when we have mass unemployment and the Fascists are on the streets again in some parts of Europe, it’s a story that we should do well to remember.’

society in the Balkans. He also calls for international solidarity between European Union workers to create a common front against unemployment and what has become an exploitative ‘Union for capital’.

It’s actually rare for Loach to be so openly didactic in conversation. When discussing his beliefs or the themes of his films, he never uses the thumping stress of the political orator. The 59-year-old director is, in person, a quiet, polite, unforceful man. His analysis is sharp, his dedication never in doubt. In Land And Freedom, he brings a more balanced approach to his central argument than was the case in, say,