Loach hailed for cinema triumph
Loach hailed for cinema triumph

A new film on the Irish War of Independence is set to boost international understanding of the struggle against British rule after it scooped top honours at the Cannes Film Festival.

The English director Ken Loach’s film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ won the Palme d’Or at the prestigious film festival, virtually ensuring its financial success and a wide distribution.

The Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, the president of the nine-member jury, said the decision had been unanimous. He said his panel had looked for films that reflected “compassion, hope, bonding and solidarity”.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley depicts the experiences of IRA Volunteers who united to form guerrilla units to face the savage and murderous ‘Black and Tan’ squads that were shipped from Britain to block Ireland’s bid for independence.

The central characters in the film are two brothers and their friend. They abandon their former lives to join the republican fight for independence.

In his acceptance speech, Ken Loach said he hoped the film was a “very little step” on the path to Britain confronting its “imperialist history”.

The 69-year-old film-maker said the Irish fight for independence against an empire imposing its will on a foreign people had resonances with the occupation of Iraq.

“Maybe if we tell the truth about the past, maybe we tell the truth about the present,” he said.

In an earlier interview, Ken Loach said the film, which was shot entirely on location in County Cork with members of the Irish film industry, said the story of the struggle for independence “occurs and reoccurs”.

“It is always a good time to tell that story. There are always armies of occupation somewhere in the world being resisted by the people they are occupying.

“The British, unfortunately and illegally, have an army of occupation in Iraq,” he said.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is to go on general release in Ireland on June 23.

Ken Loach has been nominated for the Palme d’Or on seven previous occasions but this is the first time he has won the main prize.

He won the jury prize in 1990 for Hidden Agenda, about a British army shoot-to-kill policy in the North of Ireland.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News