I, Daniel Blake has won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in a shocking result for British director Ken Loach. The “Palme” is the top prize at the French festival and is sought after by filmmakers. This is Loach’s second Palme; his movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley took the top prize in 2006.
Set in the impoverished northeast of England, I, Daniel Blake “documents what happens when an older man living in Newcastle has a heart attack and can no longer do his job. He is declared fit for work, meaning his benefits are stopped, and he begins to go hungry,” writes the BBC.
The gritty movie stars Dave Johns, a stand-up comedian, and was “written by long-time Loach collaborator Paul Laverty.” Accepting the award from Mel Gibson, Loach spoke about the surprising optimism of his movie.
“We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible. The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe.”
Loach is known for his movies about down-on-their-luck Brits, and it seems the Cannes judges love it. Speaking of the movie, they “praised the actors’ depictions of the characters who ‘find themselves in no-man’s land, caught on the barbed wire of welfare bureaucracy as played out against the rhetoric of ‘striver and skiver’ in modern day Britain.'”
I, Daniel Blake is the first movie role for Johns, who was obviously overjoyed with its reception.
“I’m a stand-up comic. Working with Ken was just absolutely the most amazing thing and this news that we’ve won the Palme D’Or – I’m just blown away with it.”
It seems people on Twitter are big fans of the win, too.
Delighted for Ken loach wining an award for I, Daniel Blake. A director with integrity not afraid to tell it like it is. Bravo Sir ????????— Annie (@anniecxxx) May 22, 2016
Congratulations to Ken Loach for winning Palme d’Or this evening for I, Daniel Blake pic.twitter.com/X2DB8WF5Jq— Raindance Film Fest (@Raindance) May 22, 2016
Surprisingly, I, Daniel Blake wasn’t most peoples’ pick for the Palme. The Guardian reports that there was “talk of a renegade jury” at Cannes. The “shocks and surprises” of the night grew as “few of the perceived favourites picked up prizes, while some movies derided as turkeys triumphed.”
The jury was headed by Mad Max director George Miller, who took the “rigorous and vigorous…exhausting” job very seriously, saying it was “one of the best experiences of my life.”
“We must commend the festival for this feast of cinema. We passionately and fiercely debated the films. Nothing was left unsaid…arguably we debated longer than most juries. Nothing was left unsaid. And we avoided looking at what other people were saying.”
Many of the judges at Cannes this year are actors, including Vanessa Paradis and Kirsten Dunst. Perhaps that might be the reason why the prizewinners, including I, Daniel Blake, have caused such a sensation. The film stands on its own merits though; judge Donald Sutherland called it “an absolutely terrific movie that resonates in your heart and soul.”
Loach, 80, came out of retirement to make I, Daniel Blake, and judging from the praise, the film is well on its way to being a worthy successor to Loach’s groundbreaking 1966 television play Cathy Come Home. The play, about a young homeless woman who loses her children to social services, had such an impact in the U.K. that it actually changed the way the country treats the homeless. If I, Daniel Blake has the same sort of impact, then the Palme will be richly deserved.
Speaking to the hushed crowd in French, the director said it was “very strange to received (sic) the award in such glamorous surroundings, considering the conditions endured by those people who inspired the film.” The director is keen that people pay attention to his film and take action.
“When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”
Loach was suitably gracious in his speech, and seemed as genuinely surprised as everyone else that I, Daniel Blake won.
“Our breath has been taken away. We weren’t expecting to come back. We are quietly stunned.”
[Photo by Joel Ryan/AP Images]