Kenneth Loach (born 17 June 1936), known as Ken Loach, is an English television and film director. He is known for his naturalistic, social realism directing style and for his socialist beliefs, which are evident in his film treatment of social issues such as homelessness (e.g., Cathy Come Home) and labour rights (e.g., Riff-Raff).
Born in Nuneaton,Warwickshire, England (his father was a factory electrician), Loach attended King Edward VI Grammar School and following two years in the RAF read law at St Peter's College, Oxford. There he performed in the now well established comedy group, the Oxford Revue. He started out as an actor in repertory theatre, but in the early 1960s moved into television direction and was credited in this role on early episodes of Z-Cars in 1962.
In 1966 Loach made the socially influential docu-drama Cathy Come Home portraying neglected subjects such as homelessness and unemployment, and presenting a powerful and influential critique of the workings of the Social Services. In the late 1960s he started directing films, and in 1969 made Kes, the story of a troubled boy and his kestrel, based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. It remains perhaps his best known film in Britain.
During the 1970s and '80s, Loach's films were less successful, often suffering from poor distribution, lack of interest and political censorship. His film The Save the Children Fund Film (1971) was commissioned by the charity, who subsequently disliked it so much they attempted to have the negative destroyed. It has never been shown in public.
Loach was later commissioned by Channel 4 to make A Question of Leadership, a documentary series on the response of the British trade union movement to the challenge posed by the policies of the Thatcher government. However, the programme was not broadcast by Channel 4, a decision Loach claimed was politically motivated. Another film, "Which Side Are You On?" (1984) relating to the UK miners' strike, was commissioned by The South Bank Show, but also withdrawn before transmission.
However, the 1990s saw Loach return to prominence with the production of a series of critically acclaimed and popular films. During this period he was also three times awarded prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. He directed the Courtroom Drama reconstructions in the Docu-film McLibel, about the longest trial in English history.
In December 2003, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham. In November 2004, he was elected to the national council of the Respect Coalition (Respect Renewal) and has also stood for election to the European Parliament on a Respect mandate. Oxford University awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2005. He is also an honorary fellow of St Peter's College In May 2006, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship at the BAFTA TV Awards.
On 28 May 2006, Loach won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a movie about the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War during the 1920s. Loach lives with his family in Bath, England where he is a supporter of and shareholder in Bath City F.C.
Loach's film work is characterised by a particular view of realism; he strives in every area of filmmaking to emphasise genuine interplay between actors, to the point where some scenes in his films are unscripted. Rather than employing method actors, he prefers unknown talent who have had some of the actual life experience of the characters they portray - so much so that many professional actors aspiring to work with Loach will often pretend to be actual construction labourers or other working class types called for in his script. .
For Bread and Roses, he chose two leading actors who had experience of union organizing and life as an immigrant. The lead actress in the film, Pilar Padilla, actually had to learn English in order to play the part.
He tries to make sure that actors express as genuinely as possible the feelings of their characters by filming the story in order and, crucially, not giving the actors the script until a few minutes before the filming. Frequently only some of the actors will know what is going to happen in a scene - the others will often, therefore, be able to express genuine surprise or sadness because they really are affected by the events of the scene.
Two examples: in Kes the boy actor, discovering the dead bird at the end, believed that the director had actually killed the bird that he had become quite close to during the filming (in fact he had used a dead bird found elsewhere). In Raining Stones one of the actresses visited at her house by a loan shark had no idea that he was going to force her to take off her wedding ring and give it to him as part payment. There are many other such examples.
Ken Loach is a strong opponent of censorship within cinema and was outraged at the 18 certificate given to Sweet Sixteen. Loach himself said,
In 2007, Loach was one of more than 100 artists and writers who signed an open letter initiated by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism and the South West Asian, North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ) and calling on the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival "to honor calls for an international boycott of Israeli political and cultural institutions, by discontinuing Israeli consulate sponsorship of the LGBT film festival and not cosponsoring events with the Israeli consulate." Loach also joined "54 international figures in the literary and cultural fields" in signing a letter that stated, in part, "celebrating 'Israel at 60' is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves to the haunting tune of lingering dispossession and multi-faceted injustice". The letter was published in the International Herald Tribune on May 8, 2008.