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Kenneth Loach

Kenneth Loach

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Also Known As: Kenneth Loach Died:
Born: June 17, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Warwickshire, England, GB Profession: director, documentarian, actor, teacher, typist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Like the Italian neo-realists (especially Vittorio De Sica) who served as his inspiration, Ken Loach has acquired a reputation as the leading socially conscious director working in Britain. A quiet, soft-spoken man, he hardly seems the "dean of leftist movie makers" (as he was dubbed by THE NEW YORK TIMES in June 1998). The son of a working-class factory worker, Loach served in the Royal Air Force, studied law and then worked in theater, first as an understudy and later touring Birmingham in a repertory company. To make end meet, he picked up work as a teacher.In the early 1960s, Loach apprenticed as a director at a commercials company before joining the BBC where he graduating to helming episodes of the series "Z-Cars" in 1962. Former actor and committed socialist Tony Garnett was hired by the BBC to serve as producer of a new series "The Wednesday Play". Loach and Garnett worked together closely and pioneered the format of what has been termed "the docudrama", a mix of techniques employed by the evening news and the fictional film, using location shooting and often casting non-professional actors. Loach first garnered attention for "Up the Junction" (1965), which profiled three impoverished...

Like the Italian neo-realists (especially Vittorio De Sica) who served as his inspiration, Ken Loach has acquired a reputation as the leading socially conscious director working in Britain. A quiet, soft-spoken man, he hardly seems the "dean of leftist movie makers" (as he was dubbed by THE NEW YORK TIMES in June 1998). The son of a working-class factory worker, Loach served in the Royal Air Force, studied law and then worked in theater, first as an understudy and later touring Birmingham in a repertory company. To make end meet, he picked up work as a teacher.

In the early 1960s, Loach apprenticed as a director at a commercials company before joining the BBC where he graduating to helming episodes of the series "Z-Cars" in 1962. Former actor and committed socialist Tony Garnett was hired by the BBC to serve as producer of a new series "The Wednesday Play". Loach and Garnett worked together closely and pioneered the format of what has been termed "the docudrama", a mix of techniques employed by the evening news and the fictional film, using location shooting and often casting non-professional actors. Loach first garnered attention for "Up the Junction" (1965), which profiled three impoverished working-class women, and cemented his reputation with "Cathy Comes Home" (1966), about a couple forced by economic circumstances to live on the streets. The film proved controversial and led to the establishment of Shelter, an advocacy group for the homeless.

Loach moved into features with "Poor Cow" (1967), adapted from Nell Dunn's novel about a shrewish woman, her thieving husband and her criminal lover. Employing a similar cinema-verite style and the leftist principles that infused his TV work, the film was a surprising financial success. Now partnered with Garnett, Loach went on to turn out several stark, socially-conscious films noted for their semi-documentary quality and often performed by well-cast non-professional actors. "Kes" (1969) was a poignant study of a teenaged loner, his pet kestrel falcon and his rebellion against the restrictions of the local Yorkshire school system. Despite initial favorable reaction, the film was held from release until 1970. For much of the next two decades, Loach alternated between television and features. His small screen work included the acclaimed "The Rank and File" (1971), focusing on a strike at a glass manufacturer and the workers' discontent with its union leadership, and the four-part historical drama "Days of Hope" (1975), which traced one family from 1914 to 1926. His film output was, however, light in the 70s and included the psychodrama "Family Life" (1971) and the atypical historical adventure "Black Jack" (1979).

With the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the monies for the kinds of films Loach wanted to direct was not as available. He began to drop the use of dramatizations and began making more conventional documentaries. Loach ran into some problems with "A Question of Leadership" (1981) and the four-part "Questions of Leadership" (filmed in 1984). The former was edited for "balance" while the latter never aired due to legal wranglings by the trade unions over issues of defamation. Even his documentary on a coal miners' strike "Which Side Are You On?" (1985) was dropped by London Weekend Television which had commissioned the project. It finally aired along with another documentary that was less sympathetic to the miners' plight.

Not that he didn't still make features. "Looks and Smiles" (1981) examined a young man's search for employment while both "Fatherland/Singing the Blues in Red" (1986; released in the USA in 1988), and the highly controversial "Hidden Agenda" (1990) dealt with more overt political themes.

By the 90s. Loach had returned in force to feature work. The comedy/drama "Riff-Raff" (1991) was the first of three films to examine the ramifications of Thatcher's policies on the working-class. "Riff-Raff" looked at union-busting on a construction site whereas "Raining Stones" (1993) followed an unemployed man who was trying to scrape together the money for his daughter's communion dress. The powerful "Ladybird, Ladybird" (1994) was a based-on-fact tale of a single mother exploited by the men in her life who fights the social service system over custody of her children. In a slight change of pace, Loach handled the diptych "Land and Freedom" (1995), which followed a British man's journey to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and "Carla's Song" (1996), about the relationship between a Glaswegian bus driver and a Nicaraguan refugee who return to her homeland circa 1987. Both are highly political and both are set primarily out of the United Kingdom. Loach delivered searing indictments of the fractious democratic republicans in the former and the US government and its covert involvement with the Contras in the latter. "My Name Is Joe" (1998) returned the focus to more localized social issues by following an unemployed recovering alcoholic who forges an unlikely relationship with a health worker.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Route Irish (2010)
3.
7.
  McLibel (2005) Drama Director
8.
  Tickets (2005)
9.
  Fond Kiss, A (2004) Director
10.
  Sweet Sixteen (2002) Director

CAST: (feature film)

3.
 Citizen Ken Loach (1997) Himself
4.
 Great Directors (2010)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Served two years in Royal Air Force as a typist
:
Professional debut as comedian's understudy in a revue
:
Worked intermittently as a teacher
:
Was a performer and director with a repertory company in Birmingham
1961:
Joined BBC as trainee TV director
1962:
First TV series directing experience, "Z-Cars", for the BBC
:
Directed an assortment of stage productions
1965:
First film for television, "Up the Junction" directed with Tony Garnett
1966:
Won widespread attention for the documentary-like TV drama "Cathy Come Home"
1968:
Directed film, "Kes", in first collaboration with writer Barry Hines (released in USA 1970)
1971:
Made the semi-documentary "The Rank and File", about a stike by glassworkers
1975:
Helmed the multi-part British TV series "Days of Hope"
1979:
Wrote and directed the feature "Black Jack", about an 18th Century highwayman
:
Worked primarily in television during the 1980s, directing only two features, "Looks and Smiles" (1981) and "Fatherland/Singing the Blues in Red" (1986; released in the USA in 1988)
1984:
"Questions of Leadership", his four-part TV documentary on the trade-union movement was never broadcast
1990:
First feature in four years, "Hidden Agenda", about American human rights activists investigating abuses in Belfast
1991:
First of three successive films centered on working-class characters "Riff-Raff"; also first collaboration with actor Robert Carlyle (released in the USA in 1993)
1995:
Directed "Land and Freedom"
1996:
Initial collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty, "Carla's Song" (released in the USA in 1998)
1997:
Subject of the documentary, "Citizen Ken Loach", directed by Karim Dridi
1998:
Second film with Laverty, "My Name Is Joe"; shown at the Cannes Film Festival
2000:
Third collaboration with Laverty, "Bread and Roses"
2001:
Helmed "The Navigators"; screened at Venice International Film Festival; scheduled to air on Channel 4 in November
2002:
Directed the film "Sweet Sixteen" about a boy determined to have a normal family life once his mother gets out of prison
2004:
Directed "Ae Fond Kiss" about tension that arises when a young Asian man enters into a relationship with a Caucasian woman
2006:
Helmed "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" about two brothers who join the guerrilla armies formed to battle the British during the Irish Civil War in 1919; won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Oxford: Oxford , England - 1957 - 1960

Notes

"If one had to choose a battleground, making films is the most effective one." --Ken Loach in the press kit for "Fatherland/Singing the Blues in Red

"I discovered through the work and humour of the people I met at the time, the strength of working people, which my education had made me immune to. You set academic hurdles and tend to forget where you came from. When you get a little more mature you begin to realize your real loyalties and the real strength of your upbringing." --Ken Loach

Of Garnett and Loach's technique, "they consciously set out to redefine the content of the material which was customarily slotted into either 'drama' or 'documentary feature.' They ended by forging a dazzling weapon of persuasion by simply effacing the traditional separation between these categories so that it was difficult to be sure which it was that one was viewing. . . . Ideally, they wanted their programmes to be indistinguishable from the items on the television news which preceded them." --Alexander Walker quoted in "World Film Directors, Volume 2"

On the term docudrama: "It's a kind of strange word. It was never a word we used. In the 60s, television drama was very theatrical. It was very much about doing a stage play in a television studio and filming it with electronic cameras. It was very stagey. And what our group tried to do was switch to 16mm, take the camera out on the streets and make drama [there]. That became known as 'docudrama', God help us! But it was never the intention to invent a word for it. It was just to try to put a bit of life into what had become a very kind of moribund form." --Ken Loach, June 1998

About the lack of financing for his films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Loach told THE NEW YORK TIMES (June 14, 1998): "If the British movie industry at the time had any perception of what I did, it was that I made films in an impenetrable dialect, driven by a kind of hard-line Marxist view, which no one would want to see. And, if they did want to see them, they wouldn't understand them anyway."

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lesley Loach.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John Loach. Factory worker. Employed by maintenance shop of a machine tool factory.
mother:
Vivien Loach.

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