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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 May 2006, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Loach revisits Irish struggle
by Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

Ken Loach and Cillian Murphy in Cannes
The film focuses on the run up to the Irish Civil War in 1922
British film-maker Ken Loach won the Palme d'Or at Cannes with his movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley, which recalls the Irish civil war.

"In the end this is a story we couldn't avoid," Loach says.

Facing a packed press conference in Cannes, his film is one of two UK movies in the main competition at the festival.

The film recounts the early days of the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s and the struggle for independence from Britain.

It is unashamedly one-eyed, told entirely from the perspective of the Irish who turn to armed struggle after witnessing countless acts of brutality by British soldiers, who are seen to be indiscriminately violent.

Modern relevance

For Loach and regular writing partner Paul Laverty the film exemplifies the struggle for freedom from occupation that has occurred again and again through history.

If we were given an objective history, I don't think people would have accepted the lies over Iraq
Paul Laverty
Loach, who is outspoken in his views against the war in Iraq, says the film resonates strongly with current events.

He says: "A story of a struggle for independence is one which occurs and re-occurs. It is always a good time to tell that story.

"There are always armies of occupation somewhere in the world being resisted by the people they are occupying.

"The British, unfortunately and illegally, have an army of occupation in Iraq."

Loach calls the war in Iraq "illegal and indefensible".

A scene from the movie
The movie was filmed on location in Cork
Passionate, intense and determined, Loach is one of Britain's most respected directors.

Before his triumph this year, he had been nominated eight times for the Palme d'Or, winning the jury prize in 1990 for Hidden Agenda, about a British army shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland

Laverty says the film is also about how empires re-write their history.

"When I was at school I learned nothing about the underbelly of the British Empire and that is not an accident."

"If we were given an objective history, I don't think people would have accepted the lies over Iraq."

Irish cast

As with all Loach's projects the cast signed on to the project without seeing a finished script.

Lead actor Cillian Murphy and co-stars Padraic Delaney and Liam Cunningham share their director's passion and each of the Irish actors brought a personal history to the project.

"I am tremendously proud of this film. I knew that if anyone could tell this story it would be Ken Loach," said Murphy.

The ghosts are still in Ireland and still do haunt
Padraic Delaney
"The memories run very very deep - the politics, the divisions and everybody has stories of family members who were caught up in the struggle.

"Some of it is bitter. Some don't talk about it."

Padraic Delaney, who plays IRA leader Teddy O'Donovan, has an emotional edge to his voice as he recounts the lasting impact of the struggle in his own life.

"I can still walk through some of my father's fields and see the unmarked graves of people who were shot by the Black and Tans or the Auxillaries and were left to die in ditches.

Cilliam Murphy, Orla Fitzgerald and Padraic Delaney
The film stars Cilliam Murphy, Orla Fitzgerald and Padraic Delaney
"You see the ruins of houses - farmhouses where people had to evacuate because of fear or intimidation.

"The ghosts are still in Ireland and still do haunt."

Loach says the story of the origins of the Irish conflict is one not fully heard in Great Britain.

"We hear a lot about what is happening in the north but we have very little context for it.

"It is never part of the story where the conflict comes from. The origin goes back centuries because Ireland was our first colony."

The film will be released across Europe but not in North America.

Laverty says he has an idea of how to sell the film to the United States.

"If you could tell George Bush you have just seen a remarkable film about Republicans," he asked an American journalist.

See an interview with Ken Loach


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