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Ken Loach • Director

"Work is exploitation, but alternatives do exist"

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Ken Loach • Director

Warm and lengthy applause greeted Ken Loach in the press conference hall of the Venice Film Festival , where the British director had just presented It's a Free World... [+see also:
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, which evokes the contradictory world of work in a multicultural London (news).

Loach is accompanied by his scriptwriter Paul Laverty and newcomer Kierston Wareing, who plays the film’s central character Angie, a dynamic woman in her thirties who decides with her friend Rose (Juliet Ellis) to open a recruitment agency for immigrants that ends up using workers from Eastern Europe and Asia. "Angie and Rose behave exactly as our society wants them to, that is with the idea that we can deceive those close to us, work against people and not with them, and that’s an idea that we need to fight against," explains the director.

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Angie, who had been exploited and fired a dozen times herself, doesn’t change her attitude even when her life is in danger. What also shocked most of the audience was the fact that she has no qualms although she is a woman and that the end doesn’t leave hope for much. Is this a more pessimistic Loach? "I don’t think I’ve become pessimistic, I’m realistic more than anything else. What Angie does at the end of the film is what the right-wing press often encourages: deprecating immigrants and illegal workers. The attitude is not as extraordinary or unrealistic as that. Nevertheless in this story there are characters that do follow their ideals and the film does a good job of showing that these ideals are worth fighting for."

It's a Free World... looks at how humans are exploited and lose their rights. Scriptwriter Laverty chose Angie’s point of view after much preparation, which included a documentary on the Liverpool dockers. "We had many ideas for the story. We discussed a lot with the workers while developing the script and we finally decided to focus on an idea around which the story could take place: the brutality of the semi-slavery in which so many workers find themselves. We told this story through the eyes of Angie".

Can socially engaged cinema help to change things? For Loach a film is just that – a film, "not a political movement." Its role is to "raise questions. We wanted to challenge the widespread belief that unscrupulous business practices are the only way for a society to progress, that everything is currency, that the economy is inevitably a competition oriented towards marketing and that’s how we have to live. On the other hand we can show that alternatives do exist."

Loach assures that he’s not yet done with this theme, as Laverty already has an idea for a next film. "We could look at what will happen in China ten years from now, what company heads will do after the Olympic Games. In China, many workers are reduced to slaves, mutilated. Efficiency shouldn’t be sanctified: in reality it’s exploitation".

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