Ken Loach has won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival for the second time in his career – with a film about a former Newcastle joiner struggling to make ends meet after falling ill.
The veteran British director and left-wing activist took home the Palme D’Or for I, Daniel Blake, which probes the sharp end of the British welfare state.
The title character of the film is a 59-year-old tradesman who is forced to rely on disability benefit after having a heart attack, but comes up against bureaucracy while trying to seek assistance. He then crosses paths with single mother of two Katie, who moves to Newcastle from London, 300 miles away.
As the teaser trailer suggests, it’s a potent, topical film about an issue that has come to the fore in recent weeks, following revelations that thousands of tests on disabled people to assess their benefit entitlements have been cancelled every week by the companies appointed to carry them out.
‘EU has caused hardship’
At a Cannes press event, Loach was asked if he saw his film as an indictment of the EU.
“I think the European Union is embodying neo-liberalism. You see it in the way they humiliated the Greek people,” he replied.
“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.”
Presenting his film earlier this month at the international film festival, Loach voiced hesitant support for the UK to remain in the EU, saying:
“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.”
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.
His past work include 1969’s Kes, was up against a host of international stars for the prize including Spanish Oscar-winner Pedro Almodovar, Sean Penn and Paul Verhoeven.