Veteran director Ken Loach has criticised the UK Government for their “callous brutality” over both refugee treatment and unemployment policy, in a scathing speech given as he accepted an award at the 2017 Film Baftas.
Loach had won Best British Film for 2016’s I, Daniel Blake, and during his acceptance speech he pulled no punches about its highly political subject matter, calling the UK Government “disgraceful” and “brutal” for their treatment of the vulnerable.
“Thank you to the Academy for endorsing the truth of what the film says, which hundreds of thousands of people in this country know, and that is that the most vulnerable and the poorest people are treated by this government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful,” Loach told the crowd.
“And it’s a brutality that extends to keeping out refugee children that we have promised to help, and that is a disgrace too.
Watch Loach’s speech at the Royal Albert Hall ceremony
“But films can do many things; they can entertain, they can terrify, they can take us to worlds of the imagination, they can make us laugh, and they can tell us something about the real world we live in. And in that real world – it is a bit early for a political speech, I am sorry – it is getting darker, as we know.
“And in the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the wealthy and the privileged, and the big corporations and the politicians who speak for them, on the one hand, and the rest of us on the other, then filmmakers – and we are all filmmakers here – the filmmakers know which side they are on, and despite the glitz and the glamour of occasions like this, we are with the people.
He concluded: “Thanks for this.”
Loach’s comments were among the fieriest in a surprisingly non-political evening, with most stars choosing not to address recent current affairs (as many had in other recent awards ceremonies) and instead talk more generally about the “divisive” times we live in.
Still, it could be that the US stars were keeping their powder dry for the Oscars in two weeks time, where they also won’t have to worry about the broadcaster maintaining impartiality (as was the BBC’s dilemma). For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.