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Ken Loach in Cannes speaks of inequality

Associated Press Associated Press 14/05/2016 Jake Coyle

Cannes, with yachts moored off the French coast and luxury boutiques lining its famous seafront, is an odd place for a proud socialist to call home.

But Ken Loach, the 79-year-old British director, has had 12 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival over the years, including his Palme d'Or-winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

He's more a regular at Cannes than almost any filmmaker.

On Friday, Loach premiered I, Daniel Blake, a warmly realistic drama about a middle-aged widower (Dave Johns) in northern England who, after a heart attack, can neither work nor get government benefits. The film chronicles his sometimes comic, frequently painful frustrations as he winds his way through a byzantine system that seems designed to crush him.

Like many of Loach's films, the politics of I, Daniel Blake are unmistakable. It's an ardent polemic, straightforwardly and movingly told.

"There is a conscious cruelty in the way that we are organising our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault," Loach told reporters.

"If you have no work it's your fault you haven't got a job. Never mind in Britain, there is mass unemployment throughout Europe."

Loach, like the Belgian brother duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, has long brought his distinct style of social realism to Cannes. This year, I, Daniel Blake follows another film that delves into the economic divide, albeit in a much different style of production.

Jodie Foster's Money Monster, playing out of competition, is about a disgruntled, bankrupted investor (Jack O'Connell) who takes a TV finance pundit (George Clooney) hostage on live TV. The thriller is the rare Hollywood release to pulse with the fury of the Occupy movement, even though it comes about five years after protesters camped out near Wall Street.

While Money Monster has the sheen of a starry, big-budget production (Julia Roberts co-stars), Loach favours unknown faces and a less adorned approach. He quoted Bertolt Brecht on Friday as a filmmaking motto: "I always thought the simplest of words will suffice. When I say what things are like, it will break the hearts of all."

"I think that's what we tried to do because it not only breaks your heart ... it should make you angry," added Loach.

Loach also voiced hesitant support for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union in the country's June 23 vote.

"The EU, as it stands, is a neo-liberal project. How do we fight it best, within or without?" said Loach. "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."

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