Ken Loach Film Sees Migrant Workers As Slaves

Ken Loach film sees migrant workers as slaves

By Mike Collett-White
Sunday, September 2, 2007; 2:57 AM

VENICE (Reuters) – The dream of a free world becomes a nightmare of modern day slavery in Ken Loach's latest film, about migrant workers trying to eke out a living in Britain where they are exploited and abused.

The 71-year-old British director brings his trademark gritty socialist style and themes to the Venice film festival, where the ironically titled “It's a Free World” is in competition.

Last year he won the top honor at the Cannes film festival with Irish civil war drama “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”

In “It's a Free World,” Kierston Wareing plays the central character Angie, a resourceful and attractive single mother who decides to go it alone after she is sacked from an employment agency that recruits economic migrants to menial jobs.

A model free marketeer who wants what is best for her and her troubled son, Angie is both saint and sinner, taking pity on an impoverished Iranian family while at the same time exploiting the casual laborers she employs.

Loach said he wanted to shed light on the fate of the thousands of economic migrants, many from Eastern Europe, who arrive in Britain each year in search of a better life.

“There is an established consensus in our country … that this is progress, that this is the way things always have to be, and that there is no alternative,” Loach said.

“Of course there is an alternative and we can arrange things differently,” he told a news conference in Venice.

“It's very important that we don't let them get away with the idea that this is some force of nature that means that some people have to be exploited and other people have to be supremely rich.”


It is not the first time Loach has tackled the topic of immigration. In 2000, “Bread and Roses” dealt with Mexicans in Los Angeles, and “Ae Fond Kiss,” made four years later, centers around second generation immigrants originally from Pakistan.

For “It's a Free World,” he teams up once again with his regular writing partner Paul Laverty, who said he had interviewed many migrants to research the story.

Laverty added that China could provide the setting for a similar narrative in the coming years.

“China just now is like a slave camp for many workers,” he told the briefing. “And this is a theme of this film too.

“It's been sanctified here as efficiency, but in reality what happens is that the exploitation of people in other parts of the world, behind the motorway or across the sea, actually subsidizes our standard of living.”

(Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi)

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