Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Young people given chance to celebrate Ken Loach's 75th birthday

Young people are to be given the chance to celebrate Ken Loach’s 75th birthday by submitting a film or written piece inspired by his work.

Prizes will be awarded for those judged to be the best in a competition organised by the British Film Institute, First Light, Film Club and Film Education. As a radical filmmaker Loach has directed a number of classics including Kes and Cathy Come Home as well as political dramas such as The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Land and Freedom.

Some of his works have also been banned. Last month his Save the Children Fund documentary, made in 1969, was only publicly shown for the first time after the charity, which funded the work, finally gave consent for people to see it. In 1979 Loach turned down an OBE and in December last year he was one of six people willing to offer surety for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor accused of sexual assault by the Swedish authorities.

One of the competition judges, Paul Hewlett, operations director at First Light says he is “looking forward to judging the entries” for 16-25 year olds who submit films up to three minutes long and from 10-18 year olds who enter a piece of creative writing.

That would even be the case if a piece of work similar to Loach’s heavily criticised 2002 piece on reflections to September 11th 2001 was entered. “The events touched the entire world and I would gladly welcome admissions that reflect a young persons’ take on it. We are not here to censor people’s work,” says Hewlett.

His organisation, First Light, has just celebrated its tenth birthday. It aims to help young people develop skills in media production and works with around 5,000 five to 25 year olds each year. A small number have so far gone to work in the film industry at a junior level.

Hewlett admits that during his 4½ years there he’s yet to find any young person whose made what might be described as a ‘Ken Loach film’ and “therefore by organising the celebration competition we hope to widen his appeal amongst the next generation of film makers and writers” he says.

Entrants will therefore be expected to champion “alternative stories and characters that confront mainstream ideologies and kick at the heels of the establishment” says Hewlett.

Yet with most Multiplexes unlikely to show radical films wouldn’t guiding a young person into making radical films or documentaries be wasting their talents? Hewlett doesn’t feel that has to be the case saying ”that whilst cinema release is very important to the success of the film industry in the UK that’s not the only way people watch films. There’s television, Cathy Come Home never received theatrical release and yet is still known as a classic. We’re also very lucky in this country to have a network of art house cinemas screening an eclectic range of world cinema.

Brave, honest and exciting filmmakers who know how to entertain an audience and tell stories that need to be told will always have a future”

It’s not too late to submit entries to the Between the Lines film making challenge - see www.firstlight.co.uk where there’s also information on the course’s First Light runs for young people.

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