Sunday, May 28, 2006


I can only presume that the British film director Ken Loach is receiving extensive press coverage in Ireland since his latest film, The Wind that shakes the Barley, walked away with the top prize at this years Cannes Film Festival.

The triumph is certainly a cause of disappointment to the Spanish who were rooting for their very own Pedro Almodovar with his fantastic offering entitled, Volver. Indeed given the quality of the Spanish film I would not at all have blamed the local film buffs for feeling hard done by and bitter with the end result. However, the Spaniards have in actual fact been nothing but gracious in their defeat by the Trotskyist director who has for many years been celebrated nowhere more so than in EspaƱa. They therefore happily comfort themselves in the fact that they not only lost out to someone they admire, but also to a subject such as the Irish Civil war which fascinates the hispanic nation. Interestingly the very root of the said Spanish inquisitiveness on Anglo Irish relations can be attributed in large part to a previous Loach work entitled Hidden Agenda (1990) which was set in Belfast, enjoys huge acclaim in Spain, and is forever mentioned to me in conversation.

Notably the award winning movie is not the very first time that Loach has dealt with such a subject. In 1995 he directed Land and Freedom (Tierra y Libertad) which handled the untouchable theme of the 1930´s Spanish Civil War. More than once I have listed this as being my favourite Spanish film of all time and I highly recommend it to those of you with a sudden curiosity for the Hibernophile director. The film is loosely based on the George Orwell novel, 1984, and revolves around the story of an unemployed Liverpudlian who is inspired to go and fight for the socialist militia (POUM) in Spain.

Of course while I am delighted with the directors recent glory, it will strangely however have academic implications for my uncinematic life. The reason is that my being Irish amongst a foreign Loach audience means that I now have to inform myself more than ever on the history and present day opinions of the Irish Civil War as it will not be long before the bombard of well thought out questions are fired in my direction. And so yet again I am haunted by my teenage decision to not study History as far as the Leaving Cert. !!

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