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Ken Loach at Cannes Film Festival winning Palme d'Or, press 2016
© Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock

Ken Loach: five career highs

He inspired the founding of homelessness charity Shelter and bagged his second Palme d’Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Here are Ken Loach's best bits

By Dave Calhoun

For director Ken Loach, who turns 80 this month, 2016 is proving to be a huge year. Last month he took his new film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ to the Cannes Film Festival (it opens in the UK later this year). It’s also the fiftieth anniversary of his groundbreaking 1966 TV drama ‘Cathy Come Home’. All that and, this week, a new doc opening in cinemas – ‘Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach’. The perfect moment, then, to point out five highlights of a packed career.

RECOMMENDED: 'Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach' review

1. Sparking a national debate on homelessness

Film Drama

In the mid-1960s, Loach made a run of one-off dramas for the BBC. The most famous, ‘Cathy Come Home’, is one of the most influential pieces of TV ever made. The story of a single mum who loses her home and her kids, it threw a spotlight on homelessness in Loach’s pioneering style: real, raw and compassionate. The outrage it generated inspired the founding of homelessness charity Shelter.

A still from the film Kes or a boy standing amongst grass with a kestrel perched on his hand
Best British Movies: Kes (1969)

2. Making 'Kes'

Film Drama

In 1969 Loach made one of the best-loved British films. ‘Kes’, set in South Yorkshire, was his second feature for cinema. It tells the story of 15-year-old Billy, a troubled young boy, trodden on at home and ignored at school, whose life changes when he forms a bond with his pet kestrel.


4. Turning Eric Cantona into a movie star

Film Comedy

Eyebrows were raised in 2009 when Loach announced he was making a film with the ex Man Utd player. The result was a brilliant social comedy about a depressed Manchester postman to whom Cantona suddenly appears as a guardian angel. It’s funny, moving and every inch a Loach film.


5. Winning his second Palme d’Or, aged 79 and three-quarters

Film Drama

Loach first won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize in 2006, for his Irish War of Independence drama ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’. He scooped it again this month for his latest film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’. Not bad for a man who announced his ‘retirement’ in 2014. The film is an upsetting drama about two people in Newcastle feeling the sharp end of the benefits system – and likely to provoke the same sort of debate as ‘Cathy Come Home’ did 50 years ago. Go, Ken!

Ken Loach interview


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