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Ken Loach's tale of Ireland freedom

Cannes (Reuters): Ken Loach's new film on the 1920 struggle for independence from Britain in rural Ireland teaches lessons on conflicts like today's war in Iraq, the director said as he showed the film in Cannes. Loach, who has sparked controversy with his political films before, was greeted with much applause as he showed his historic tale The Wind That Shakes the Barley during the competition for the main Palme d'Or prize yesterday. Loach said his story of two brothers fighting against British rule some 90 years ago shed light on a conflict that was not much talked about today, but which could help explain the current situation in Northern Ireland and conflicts elsewhere.

''I think a story of a struggle for independence is a story that recurs and recurs and recurs ... There are all these armies of occupation somewhere in the world, being resisted by the people they are occupying,'' Loach told reporters. ''I don't need to tell anyone where the British now unfortunately and illegally have an army occupation. And the damage and the casualties and the brutalities that are emerging from that,'' the British director said in reference to the US-led war in Iraq. ''My view is that this was an illegal war ... It's an appalling scar on our government's record and clearly on the American's.'' Loach said his film was not anti-British but showed people had more in common with those in the same social position in other countries than with those at the top of their own. The director made his name in the 1960s with ''Cathy Come Home'', a television drama about homelessness that sparked a debate that contributed to a change in Britain's housing laws.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley shows the metamorphosis of Damien (Cillian Murphy), a young Irish medical student who has won a place in London to train as a doctor but who decides to stay in Ireland and fight for his country's independence. Damien, his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) and their group of friends who grew up in the Irish countryside, fight British soldiers with their limited means, staging ambushes and hold-ups. The young men's friendship comes to the test over the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty and the mayhem of the civil war waged by those who opposed the treaty on the grounds it partitioned the country, creating Northern Ireland.

Actor Delaney said the conflict's legacy was still visible in his homeland today even in his father's backyard. ''I can still go home nowadays and walk through some of my father's fields ... and see graves of people who were shot by the Black and Tans,'' Delaney said, referring to the British forces so-called because of their two-tone uniforms. The Black and Tans were recruited to bolster the ranks of the police force in Ireland as anti-British sentiment grew. ''You can see the ruins of houses, farm houses where people had to evacuate because of fear or intimidation,'' he said. ''The ghosts are still in Ireland and still do haunt.'' 

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