All entries for Saturday 06 September 2008

September 06, 2008

Blogging: a History

Blogging a History

Return to Developing  Blogging Skills Hub Page

(Please note still under development however the links should be useful)

Introduction

Since the invention of blogging as a specific internet activity it has grown at an exponential rate and by May 2005 internet research companies found that 7% of the 120 million US adults who use the internet have created their own blog as  Aline  van Duyn reports:

Blogs, web logs or journals, which cover topics from politics to parenting, have such enormous followings that marketing and advertising executives can no longer resist advertising in them. The most recent Pew Internet and American Life Project, which researches internet use, found that 7 per cent of the 120m US adults who use the internet have created their own blog. Assuming one blog per person, this comes to 8m US blogs alone. The study also found that 27 per cent of US internet users say they read blogs. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)

Of course that figure of around 8 million bloggers in 2005 has increased enormously since then.

(See also Syndicates of Opinion Overview)

What is a Blog?

(See also What is a blog?)

It is the contention of this posting that blogs are in a state of evolution whilst originally they were very much a personalised thing there is an increasing tendency towards creating them for business or other purposes. This blog for example is primarily about Film Studies and Media Studies providing resources for educational or programming purposes. Whilst there are pesonal and ideological perspectives involved inevitably  all  media texts contain these.  In some senses the definition below is therefore unsatisfactory. Some blogs may be highly subjectivist and impressionistic. They might contain personal outpourings more akin to a highly personal hard copy diary whilst other blogs are informed reflective thinking about processes going in the sphere of politcs economics, science, arts etc. As is discussed below entirely new business models are appearing based upon blog technology such as the Huffington Post. The possibilities of webvertising  through blogs is also changing the nature of the beast. This BBC news page describes the popular feelings about blogs expressed in 2006:


if you believe the hype, blogs are as significant as the invention of the printing press for their ability to change the way the world will be seen. If on the other hand you believe the counter-hype, blogs are a self-indulgence which pander to dull people's misguided beliefs that they have something interesting to say. (BBC News on its own Blogs)

The current Wikipedia entry on web content (07/09/08) argues that:

Blogs are a type of website that contains mainly web pages authored in html (although the blogger may be totally unaware that the web pages are composed using html due to the blogging tool that may be in use). Millions of people use blogs online; a blog is now the new "Home Page", that is, a place where a persona can reveal personal information, and/or build a concept as to who this persona is. Even though a blog may be written for other purposes, such as promoting a business, the core of a blog is the fact that it is written by a "person" and that person reveals information from her/his perspective. (My Emphasis: Wikipedia: Web content page 07 /09/08)



The Evolution of Blogging


The history of blogs
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: blogs history)




There is some carping about who had the first blog who invented the term and so forth. This debate is of no particular interest in itself except for a couple of egos. Rather more significant is the fact that around 1995-97 the was a shifting culture on the web which was very new then in any case. This culture was moving towards creating content pages which were ultimately going to be far easier to use and update than writing sites directly into HTML or into early versions of Web Creation software packages, Dreamweaver / Go-Live etc. The priority then was an imperative to get information out to the whole world (at least those with a connection to the internet). Now blogging software is very intuitive and requires no specialist knowledge to generate a very good website.

Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software, such as WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger or LiveJournal, or on regular web hosting services. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)


By 2001, blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals began to appear, primarily focusing on technique. The importance of the blogging community (and its relationship to larger society) increased rapidly. Established schools of journalism began researching blogging and noting the differences between journalism and blogging. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)

Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Iraq war saw bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that go beyond the traditional left-right divide of the political spectrum. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK's Labour Party's MPTom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents....In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper launched a redesign in September 2005, which included a daily digest of blogs on page 2. Also in June 2006, BBC News launched a weblog for its editors, following other news companies.[14. (Wikipedia entry 07/09/08 - page ranking 6/10)


In May 2005 the Huffington Post Launches (see below)

In January 2006 Andrew Sullivan's political blog started in 2002 is leased by the Time Magazine Corporation and Sullivan's blog The Daily Dish is now available at Atlantic Magazine the online version of an established political journal. With a page valued at 8/10 by Google the same as the BBC Business Newspage this is clearly a good investment in a professional blogger. This shows that there is a clear market for the most successful bloggers who are effectively being co-opted into the mainstream media.


Blogging & Advertising

This vast amount of activity has led to a migration of advertising onto the web specifically via blogs. The large numbers involved are likely to be highly educated and inventive people who are likely to be more interested in targeted advertising.

"It is still not for everyone, but it can, at the moment, work for specially targeted ads," says Alycia Hise, account director at TMP Worldwide, which buys blog ads for her education clients. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)

As a result advertising as a media form is undergoing a significant shift partially because of blogging:

Michael Bassik, director at Malchow Schlackman Hoppey & Cooper, which ran John Kerry's online presidential campaign.
He admits that a year ago he dismissed the idea of blog advertising. Now, he has clients spending up to $15,000 per week on blogs. "You are reaching a very actively engaged group of people, much more so than readers of more general web sites," he said. (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)

Blog advertising has always been very cheap, certainly in 2005:

Blog ads are cheap compared to other forms of advertising. Blogads.com, where ad buyers can take space on blogs, lists its most expensive placement at $3,000. This buys you a week in the top slot on dailykos.com, which claims to be read daily by more than 400,000 "committed progressive activists". (Aline van Duyn, Financial Times May 27 2005)

The Guardian acquisition of Paidcontent a Business to Business blog based media start-up company in July 2008 has great potential for the Guardian Media Group:

the low costs of a blogging platform, global spread and specialised sector should shield it from an advertising downturn. "What we are proving and hopefully prove even more now is that this is the future of B2B media". (Mr Ali founder and previous owner of Paidcontent cited Bradshaw FT)

A crucial question for many bloggers is can money be made from Blogging through advertising? Rory Cellan-Jones the BBC Technology Editor as sceptical to say the least:

Hmmm, the trouble is those individual blogs do not seem to be building growing businesses - even if they're providing a new living for people who are often already professional journalists or commentators. (Rory Cellan-Jones 21 /08/08)



Venture Capital and Blogging


...while financial markets remain fragile, there are a slew of established media companies eager to buy promising start-ups in the hope of gaining access to the next promising technology.
"It's a strange phenomenon," he explained. "All the media companies, you name it, they are buying companies - or stakes in companies - at a very early stage." (Chaffin on Patricof FT)

Patricof's Grey venture capital fund Greycroft Partners have been astute despite the financial dowturn of 2008:

Three of its portfolio companies have already been sold - most recently the parent of PaidContent.org, a tech blog, which the Guardian newspaper snapped up earlier this month for $30m. (Chaffin on Patricof FT)


The start up of the Huffington Post in May 2005 can be seen as a turning point in the history of blogging as Michael Bassik commented to Joshua Chaffin :

"The blogger is often labelled as a crazy individual, sitting in their bedroom, in their underwear, writing whatever comes to mind," explained Michael Bassik, a blogger and member of MSHC Partners, which does online political consulting for Democratic candidates.

"What this really symbolises is blogs becoming a more mainstream method of communication," he adds.

Some Bloggers were very sceptical at the start of the Huffington Post which seems more about extending the overwrought culture of celbrity with ballooning and punctured egos than anything else. Of course if this lot are active in the blogosphere there is plenty for the advertising sharks to feed on. Every celeb has plenty of disposable income:

Chris Nolan, who blogs about California politics, praised Ms Huffington as a "force of nature", yet she also questioned whether the site would succeed.
She doubted celebrity contributors would be able to supply the undiluted opinions necessary to stand out amid an ocean of blogs. "The idea that Gwyneth Paltrow is going to have something interesting to say about the state of the world without her handlers is not a likely proposition," Ms Nolan said. Ultimately, though, she extended a welcoming hand to her newest peer as much as any blogger can. (Joshua Cahffin 10th May 2005 FT)

Webliography


Timeline of Blogging New York Magazine. (Up until 2006)

Deals pioneer gets a second wind. Joshua Chaffin Financial Times 

First Lady of the Blogs. Joshua Chaffin Financial Times

Online party sends out for more shrimp. Joshua Chaffin May 2005. 

Guardian Acquires Media Blog. Tim Bradshaw FT July 2008

Is blogging good value for the C-suite? Urs E. Gattiker July 11 2008

BBC News: Down with blogs... so here's another

The Jeff Jarvis Buzz Machine blog. Jarvis is a professor of jouranlism and a contributor to the Guardian madia pages with a regular column. This is a highly influential blog and gains a (7/10 google ranking which is quite something)

The Syndicates of Opinion: The Nature & Ethics of Blogging. (Stanford Student Project)

Blogvertising: Ethics in Advertising for Bloggers

Ethics and blogging. The Future

Syndicates of Opinion Webliography

History of Blogging - Your Timeline To Tech News

Scientific Blogging (blogging isn't just about politics and entertainment any area of human interest can use blogging. Here there is a joint blog used by sa number of contributing scientists. )

Duncan Riley blog Wall Street Journal Tries to Re-Write Blogging History

Rebecca Blood. Weblogs a History and Perspective

Bibliography

Link here for separate bibliography of books on blogging.


Return to Developing  Blogging Skills Hub Page


Developing Blogging Skills Hub Page

Developing Blogging Skills Hub Page

Introduction

This hub page will direct you to a developing theme on this blog of how best to develop your blog. Although it will of course hopefully generate ideas and advances amongst a wide range of users some of the links being developed are primarily targetted at A Level students.

Why blog?

Developing Your Blog 1: Search Engines and Linking

Developing Your Blog 2: Content

Blogging a History

A Bibliography of Blogging

Blogging your First Step

A2 Media Blog Listing (Not Publicly Accessable)

Case Study of a Successful Commercial Blogging Venture: The Huffington Post


Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh (1943 - )

(For regular visitors this a relaunched page as my titling errors had made the original one invisible to search engines which were reading something else. There are a couple of additions on this page such as trailers from YouTube)


Mike Leigh 2

Mike Leigh



Introduction 


Mike Leigh is one of the UK's most important contemporary directors. Despite his record of success in making lower budget films his working methods preclude him from accessing the higher budgets required to  work on a larger canvas as he phrased it recently in a Sight and Sound interview. His first film, Bleak Moments was financed by Albert Finney who also came from Salford . Many of his films such as Meantime (1983) have been made with the backing of TV companies such as Channel Four and the BBC. They can commission work because they know that a Mike Leigh TV film premier will give the required audience however Leigh along with most other British directors lives in the shadow of the Hollywood film marketing and Multiplex exhibition system which is itself in thrall to the marketing power of Hollywood. Below I have included a brief bibliographical sketch of Mike Leigh and highlighted some of his working methods which come to charactersie his films. His films have an authorial content and approach which significantly distinguishes them from other British films.

Biographical Notes



Leigh was born in Salford in 1943 into a medical family - his father was a doctor, his mother a nurse. His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He first realised he wanted to make films while analysing the cinematic potential of his grandfather's funeral one snowy morning at the age of 12. In his teens he devised comic sketches whilst a member of the Jewish secular socialist-Zionist movement Habonim, In 1960 he left home for London and Rada (which he found "repressive and uncreative"). He followed this by studying at the Camberwell School of Art, and then enrolled at the London Film School. Leigh has since returned to be the Chairman of the Governors at the London Film School since 2000.


Whilst still a student Leigh began to write plays which were largely improvised. This activity eventually spawned Bleak Moments. (1971) and then Hard Labour in 1973 and Permissive Society 1975. Much of the next two decades was spent working mainly in TV. Leigh became recognised for writing powerful TV films such as Nuts in May (1976), and Abigail’s Party (1977). Meantime (1983) was a powerful film about a dysfunctional family and disaffected youth under the growing Thatcher regime at the time of the Falklands crisis which had a limited release in cinemas. It was five years before his next cinematic release High Hopes (1988). It was a film that combined realism with satire of a Swiftian nature. 1990 saw Life is Sweet the dark Naked (1993), Secrets and Lies (1996) which gained both British and American Academy ward nominations and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes). Career Girls (1997) is a form of chamber work. In 2002 the release of the biopic of Gilbert and Sullivan Topsy Turvey (2001) was a very different style to his previous work. 2004 saw the release of Vera Drake (2004) a realist representation of post-war Britain which highlighted the hypocrisy of the society in relation to the position of women of all classes. It became a prize-winner in Venice.  In the recent book Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh he cites as his inspirations the British social realists Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson as well as American director John Cassavetes. He also says that directors and playwrights such as Renoir, Pinter and Beckett have influenced him.



Leigh’s Directing Methods

Mike Leigh 4

Critics often mystify Leigh’s working methods which are broadly improvisational but often carried out with known actors and crew. This is in essence an auteurial and dynamic approach which many directors from Godard to Loach to Fassbinder have used with variations. Of course it is the stuff of jazz performance: A haze of rumour and mystique has long surrounded Leigh's unique working methods”, which he has developed over five decades in theatre, television and film. It's generally realised, however, that the process involves intense improvisation, research and close collaboration with his actors.

Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh tends to demystify the Leigh methodology. Leigh has established clear codes of practice such as never letting actors discuss their characters in anything but the third person. Any talk about players getting too close to their parts is firmly discounted. "The whole thing about people becoming the characters doesn't happen, and is not on," Leigh told Jonathan Romney in interview. However any great artist creates a certain indefinable charisma around themselves which is in practice inseparable to their working methods it is what makes Leigh Leigh not a metteur en scene. Leigh points out that:” there's stuff that goes on that can only be understood by people taking part in it."

What emerges from the interviews is that each piece derives directly from, and only from, the collaborative work that produces it, work which begins with the casting. "I cast intuitively," Leigh tells Romney. "I get people and I don't know what I'm going to do with them."

Leigh’s working method like Ken Loach involves a ‘need-to-know’ basis. As a result actors know only what their characters do. Famously during the preparations for Vera Drake, the scene culminating in Vera's arrest emerged from a 10-hour improvising session. At the end of this scene the actors playing the Drake family were entirely surprised by the arrival of actors playing police who had come to arrest Vera.

Sheila Johnston on Leigh’s Methods from the Telegraph


  • Leigh meets each actor individually, and he or she talks about dozens of people he has known, intimately or fleetingly. Eventually, one is selected as the starting point for the character: it could just be a bloke glimpsed in the pub one night.


  • Over the next months, the actor, along with Leigh, builds up an elaborate alter ego, mapping out his life in enormous detail, down to how his parents met, and exploring every cranny of his psyche.


  • Once the individual characters are formed, Leigh gradually brings the actors together for a series of loose improvisations to build up their collective world. None of them knows anything about the film other than their own place in it


  • After a while, they go out on the streets to interact with other characters and the unsuspecting public, while Leigh looks on from a distance. The late Katrin Cartlidge, who appeared in Naked and Career Girls, once described him to me as "like David Attenborough and his gorillas".


  • Leigh writes an outline of scenes for the final film. The actors improvise specifically around these, while an assistant takes notes. The best lines and moments are distilled and scripted, and shooting can at last begin. This whole process takes about six months.


Actors Often USed by Mike Leigh

Alison Steadman

Alison Steadman 2

Alison Steadman played  the title role in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party on both stage and screen.  She also appeared in Leigh's films  Life is Sweet and Secrets and Lies. She was married to Mike Leigh for 20 years.

Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall 1

Timothy Spall. In 1982 his acting relationship with Mike Leigh started in 1982 in Leigh’s TV movie Home Sweet Home. The collaboration has lasted over 20 years.


Brenda Blethyn

Brneda Blethyn Secrets and Lies


Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies . She has worked with Mike Leigh in both TV and Films perhaps most famously in Leigh's Secrets & Lies


Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Liz Smith

Liz Smith 1

Liz Smith made her screen debut in Mike Leigh's first feature film Bleak Moments. She was also in Leigh's TV play Hard Moments.

David Thewlis

David Thewlis in Naked


David Thewlis worked with Mike Leigh in Life is Sweet and Naked.

Sally Hawkins

Sally Hawkins

Sally Hawkins has worked with Mike Leigh in All or Nothing, Vera Drake and most recently Happy-Go-Lucky


Filmography

Happy-Go-Lucky 2008

Vera Drake 2004

All or Nothing 2002

Topsy Turvy 1999

Career Girls1998 (Requires access to JSTOR) 

Secrets and Lies1996

Naked 1993

Life is Sweet 1990

High Hopes1988

Meantime 1983 

Bleak Moments 1971


Trailers From Mike Leigh Films


Secrets & Lies 

Taken from YouTube this an extremely powerful extract of Mike Leigh getting the best out of his actors. Make sure you see this film .


Happy-Go-Lucky

See Entry on Happy-Go-Lucky



Thin Man Films Production company: Mike Leigh & Simon Channing Williams

Mike Leigh and Simon Channing Williams met in 1980. Simon was First Assistant Director on Mike’s BBC film Grown-Ups, starring Brenda Blethyn. They teamed up again when Simon co-produced The Short and Curlies (1987) and High Hopes (1988), both for Portman Productions.

By this time a good worlking relationship was established  a close personal and working relationship so they formed Thin Man Films. Since then Thin Man has made eight successful feature films, Life is Sweet (1990), Naked (1993), Secrets & Lies (1996), Career Girls (1997), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All Or Nothing (2002), Vera Drake (2004) and Happy-Go-Lucky (2008).


Awards to Mike Leigh Films

Secrets & Lies and Topsy-Turvy had nine Oscar nominations between them, Topsy-Turvy winning two.

1996  Secrets & Lies won the Palme d’Or and Best Actress at Cannes. It also won The Golden Lion and the Best Actress at Venice in 2004, as well as six BIFA’s, 3 BAFTA’s including Best Director, and three Oscar nominations

In 1994, Naked won Best Director and Best Actor at Cannes . 



Awards Won by Mike Leigh

  • Fiaf Awards 2005: Premio Fiaf – Mike Leigh
  • Gotham Awards 2004: Lifetime Achievement Award – Mike Leigh
  • Taormina International Film Festival 2002: Taormina Arte Award – Mike Leigh
  • London Critics Circle Film Awards 2000: Dilys Powell Award – Mike Leigh
  • Camerimage 1999: Special Award Best Duo: Director – Cinematographer Mike Leigh / Dick Pope
  • BAFTA 1996: Michael Balcon Award – Mike Leigh
  • Empire Awards 1996: Lifetime Achievement Award – Mike Leigh



The Box Office Gross Takings of Mike Leigh Films to Date. Figures from  Sight & Sound July 2008
Title
Year
Box Office Gross
Opening Screens
Debut Weekend Gross
Vera  Drake 2005
£2,377,598
65
£266,000
Secrets and Lies
1996
£1,969,910


Happy-Go-Lucky
2008
£1,453,681*
77
£385,000
Topsy-Turvey
2000
£1,177,542


All or Nothing
2002
£712,165
55
£164,000
Life is Sweet
1991
£530,000


Career Girls
1997
£492,772


Naked
1993
£456,280


High Hopes
1989
£245,549


*Still on release

Gross until May 26 2008





Webliography 

Thin Man Films (Mike Leigh's Official Site)

Screenonline biographical notes on Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh interview with Salon

BBC4 Interview with Mike Leigh interviewed by Isobel Hilton (There are several short downloadable audio interviews available here) 

Mike Leigh at the NFT

Leigh hits out at UK film industry

Mike Leigh live on Film Unlimited

BBC interview with Leigh on All or Nothing

Guardian interview with Mike Leigh on winning the Palme d'or with Secrets and Lies (1996)

Mike Leigh could be only holder of awards at Venice, Berlin and Cannes. Guardian  Feb 2008

New Statesman on Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky

Guardian Review of Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh: Britain's Bergman

Mike Leigh on Humphrey Jennings

Telegraph on Mike  Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky

Independent: How Meeting Mike Leigh Raised Sally Hawkins' Game

Euroscreenwriters Interview with Mike Leigh

Screenonline: Mike Leigh on TV

Screening the Past : Review of The Films of Mike Leigh: embracing the World

Mike Leigh awarded a Doctorate by Essex University. (Full list of awards available here)

Johnathan Romney Independent 2008: Leigh Interview


Bibliography 

Clements, Paul. 1983. The Improvised Play. London: Methuen

Coveney, Michael.1996. The World According to Mike Leigh. London: HarperCollins

Movshovitz, Howie (ed.)2000.  Mike Leigh Interviews. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi,

Quant & Carney. 2000. The Films of Mike Leigh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

Raphael, Amy.ed. 2008. Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh. London: Faber and Faber

Watson Gary: The Cinema of Mike Leigh: A Sense of the Real








RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


Ken Loach

Ken Loach (1936-  )

(Please note this is a relaunch of an old page although there are some additions. The relaunch was due to an inadvertant mistake in constructing the original page that I couldn't get out of the code. This meant search engines were not searching for the term Ken Loach, which wasn't very useful. You live and learn:-( )



RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE


Films of Ken Loach Cover


Introduction 


Along with many other British director entries this entry is 'work in progress' nevertheless it will provide a basic signposting to other available resources on the web in the first instance until I'm able to make a fuller evaluation and provide fuller articles on the separate films.

From the perspective of examining and analysing the trials and tribulations, successes and failures, weakness and strengths of contemporary British cinema the films of Ken Loach are important ones to think about.

Ken Loach has been a major force in British filmmaking since the 1960s. Loach comes out of a strong tradition of British social realism which almost inevitably is a broadly left-wing cinema which also has crossovers with classic TV dramas. Kathy Come Home was a groundbreaking TV drama which helped to establish the charity Shelter and exposed the failures of the welfare state in providing good housing for all at the time. Loach also made early episodes of 'Z' Cars for TV and Up the Junction, in 1965. A powerful TV play. Much of this work depicted another side to Britain in the 1960s which is now remembered more nostaligically as the "Swinging Sixties". In fact there was considerable poverty and exploitation of working class tenants at the time. Work by people like Loach at the time applied pressure upon the Labour governemnt under Harold Wilson to invest more money in social policy initiatives such as housing and at the same time contributed to an increasing discourse of meritocracy within the country.    

All this work led to Loach being able to make feature films of which Kes about a working class boy in the North of England is probably his best known early work and has been ranked as the seventh most popular British film ever. The working class were rarely represented in a non patronising way within British cinema up until this time although the work of the British social realist movement had begun to change this.

Loach is still a powerful force in Brish and European cinema continuing to win prizes and gain recognition despite the fact that the content of his films is challenging and critical of many different aspects of contemporary society or challenging recieved version of historical events such as The Spanish Civil War and Britain's role in Ireland after the First World War.

Class and Representation in Contemporary Britain

At a time when class politics has been largely relegated to the margins Loach manages to interweave class issues with history, globalisation and its effects on locality by representing the everyday. The strengths of Loach's cinematic approach can be seen in his concerns to represent aspects of Britain which are often underrepresented. Although his film The Navigators  made for Channel Four focused upon the plight of a largely white British working class which was under attack from the Thatcher government that was restructuring the Railways Loach has begun to deal with complex issues of fragmented identities which have regional, gender and ethnic concerns dynamically interwoven in hybridsing patterns. 

Loach has always had a central concern in his film-making agenda which an exposure of the poor and exploited of the world in both contemporary and historical settings. Following on from the British social realist tradition of representing regionalism as well as class, films such as Ae Fond Kiss and Sweet Sixteen have taken on board the complex issues of identity in the contemporary world from a grassroots perspective. See Representing Changing Britain: Ethnicity and Hybridity.

Loach has also successfully taken on board important historical themes which often get ignored by the mainstream which tends to celebrate great historically periods such as Elizabethan times in Britain. Loach's prizewinning Land and Freedom represented some of the realities behind the Spanish Civil War which was an important prelude to the opening of the Second World War itself. more recently Loach made the prizewinning The Wind That Shakes the Barley which dealt with the  notoriously cruel  period of British and Irish history which saw  the inception of the Black and Tans  terrorising the  Irish population in a battle of independence. Atall times Loach takes a different perspective on aspects of life and history which often go unnoticed and unrepresented in mainstream media. Loach's critical perspective often makes it difficult to see his films in the multiplexes in Britain and in terms of box office takings his films often do better in continental Europe than in cinemas here. TV and DVD sales and a loyal continental following help ensure that Loach is able to the raise the money for new critical projects. Inevitably they are low budget and have little money for marketing campaigns. As such they represent the ongoing struggle if British and other national cinemas who are always under threat from the Hollywood industrial machine.

Ae Fond Kiss deals with changing concepts of ethnicity and celebrates the dynamism and natural hybridity of many people who dare to cross social and cultural boundaries in pursuit of their own happiness. Loach does an important job here for it is these people who are building the Britain of the future. This makes it a useful film to study as well.

It is difficult to classify Loach's films precisely becuase he seeks to look at the world through a different mental lens. One can look at Ae Fond Kiss and classify it as within the 'romantic' genre for example but it is rather more than that and would disappoint those who went along thinking they were going to see a standardised romance as structured within the genre conventions.

To look at the content of Loach's films, think about the way they are made - often reliant upon non-professional actors, and with an improvisatory method of engaging with the actors, and to relate their relationship to the systems of distribution and exhibition allows - indeed forces one take a critical perspective upon many different aspects of life. They are low budget films and indeed Loach prefers it like this. He and his teams have a far greater control over the content and the way they develop their own personal vision but they are not 'Art' films with a capital A because their aesthetic is easy to recognise amongst the desired working class audience. It is a pity that Loach has difficulty in reaching this audience through the cinema.  

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

(Trailer available here)

Although Ken Loach is one of Britain's most respected film makers getting to see his films in a cinema in the UK is a difficult affair even when they gain critical accolades as did The Wind that Shakes the Barley which won the Palme d'Or the top prize at Cannes 2006 which is the most prestigious film festival in the world (Oscars have more glam,cash and celebrity but Cannes is for good, challenging and interesting films).


When an acclaimed, leftist English director makes a film about nationalist Irish struggles – and wins the top prize at the Cannes festival – controversy is inevitable. The historian Stephen Howe looks behind the shouting to ask: is the film truthful? (Stephen Howe Open Democracy article.)

We know there is something deeply wrong with the British film industry as a whole when this sort of situation is happening. Here we need to consider and come up with different models of distribution and exhibition as an urgent matter of cultural policy to deal with the creatively choking (and polluting) control of the multiplexes

In this film Loach examines a broader historical theme which is something he has done previously in Land and Freedom about the Spanish Civil War. Loach has the ability to move from the micro of the quotidian looking at the trials, tribulations and frustrations of the everyday for working class people to important periods of history which are often obscured by various ideological and political issues of the present. There are few British films which take a critical look at the role of Britain in Irish history for example. 

This film is a useful one to study as a part of issues and debates in contemporary British cinema both from the perspective of its content and also the highly contradictory situation of the film not being widely celebrated within the cinema system itself.  

It's a Free World (2007)




For a more in depth article please see It's a Free World on this blog. For a discussion about the underlying socio-economic processes that Loach is representing see also entry on Globalisation on this blog.




Again this is a prize winning film gaining an important award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival of Best Screenplay, Venice Film Festival 2007 as well as Best Film, Seville Film Festival 2007

"Osella" for Paul Laverty at Venice Film Festival:
"It's a Free World" wins "Best Screenplay"

(Sept. 9th 2007) Paul Laverty won the "Osella" for the Best Screenplay for "It's a Free World" (directed by Ken Loach) at this year's Venice Film Festival. Besides the drama was awarded with a EIUC Human Rights Film Award and got a special mention a the Signis Awards.

It's A Free World Trailer






Below interview with Ken Loach conducted in Italian. (Loach's comments are being translated)



Review from Amanda Palmer of It's a Free World as part of a film review programme from Al Jazeera




Filmography 

Its a Free World 2007


The Wind That Shakes The Barley 2006


Tickets (with Abbas Kiarostami, Ermanno Olmi) 2005

Ae Fond Kiss 2003 

Sweet Sixteen; 11'09'01 - September 11 (segment) 2002

The Navigators 2001

Bread and Roses 2000

My Name is Joe 1998

Carla's Song 1996

Land and Freedom 1995

Ladybird, Ladybird 1994

Raining Stones 1993


Riff Raff 1991

Hidden Agenda 1990

Fatherland 1986

Looks and Smiles 1982

Black Jack 1979

Family Life 1971

Kes 1969

Poor Cow 1967


Webliography 

Screenonline biographical notes on Ken Loach (There are many associated links to films on this page)

Sweet Sixteen Films (Home page of Ken Loach and Rebecca O'Brien Production Company)

Observer report on It's a Free World

Socialist worker interview with Ken Loach about Its a Free World

European Films.Net Review of It's a Free World

Reuters Report on It's a Free World 

A different Reuters Report on It's a Free World

Guardian interview with Loach and Laverty at the Southbank

Independent Review of It's a Free World

Fujifilm PDF on Its a Free World. (Excellent images on this)

Loach makes union workers aware of wider issues attending screening for Unison branch 

BBC Story: Loach slams "Hollywood bias"

BBC on Cannes success of Sweet Sixteen

BBC Loach Criticises British Film Makers for Hollywood Dreams

MEDIA support in Production (Industrial context)

Timesonline: Eric Cantona and Ken Loach team up for football film

Films of Loach and Garnett, fudge e.Jumpcut

Euroscreenwriter interview with Ken Loach

Senses of Cinema Ken Loach

Observer Arts column on Cannes and Loach April 2008

Guardian:  'Come out Fighting'. 2006 on Wind That Shakes the Barley

Cineaste: The Revolution Betrayed. Interview with Loach

An Phoblacht on Wind That Shakes the Barley


Bibliography


Leigh, Jacob.(2002). The Cinema of Ken Loach: Art in the Service of the People. Wallflower Press

Ken Loach: Which Side Are You On? Ken Loach and His Films By Anthony Hayward ISBN: 9780747574125



Film Availability : The following Ken Loach films are currently available


ae_fond_kiss_cover.jpg Family Life DVD cover Hidden Agenda DVD cover its_a_free_world_dvd_cover.jpg Ken Loach Collection Vol 1 Ken Loach Collection Vol 2Kes DVD Cover Poor Cow DVD Cover Sweet Sixteen DVD cover The Navigators DVD Cover wind_that_shakes_the_barley_dvd_cover.jpg Land and Freedom DVD Cover

Carla



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