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I Daniel Blake

Ken Loach wins at Cannes for film on the UK welfare system

I, Daniel Blake is the film tracing the social institution that’s failing those who need it most, and it’s the filmmaker’s second time taking home the best picture award

British director Ken Loach has won his second Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival this year for I, Daniel Blake, a film about a disabled man’s struggle with the UK welfare system.

The social-realist filmmaker snagged the best picture award at Cannes on Sunday, making him one of only nine directors to have won the prize twice. He took home the award in 2006 with the heart-wrenching Irish war-cry film The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006).

The 79-year-old director is renowned for his politically challenging cinematic oeuvre. Looks and Smiles (1981) was a bitter takedown of the Thatcherite era through unemployed youth; Riff-Raff (1991), a dark comedy revolving around labourers in the foundations of a construction site and Route Irish (2011), a thriller revolving around the shady world of private contract workers in Iraq.

I, Daniel Blake revolves around the protagonist of the same name, a 59-year-old joiner in North East England. He falls ill and requires disability allowance to survive. The film traces the maze of obstacles and red tape that makes living so difficult for him. Loach also explores the life of a single mother name Katie, who faces the dilemma of getting out of the homeless shelter, but living in a flat 300 miles away from where she calls home.

Accepting his award, Loach spoke to the Grand Theatre des Lumieres crowd in French: “Thanks to the team, the writer Paul Laverty, the producer Rebecca O'Brien and all the others. Thanks also to the workers of the Cannes Festival who make this event possible.”

Then, speaking in English, Loach observed a kind of irony that surrounds accept an award at a lavish ceremony, when his film was inspired by the horrific living conditions of the working class.

He said: “When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”