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Loach condemns middle-class censors

Loach condemns middle-class censors

Loach condemns middle-class censors

Promoting his latest feature, The Angels’ Share, his eleventh in competition here at Cannes, one of Britain’s most acclaimed – if  controversial – film-makers, Ken Loach, has launched an outspoken attack on the British Board of Film Classification.

The film, about how a young, unemployed Scottish convict, played by newcomer Paul Brannigan, finds redemption through fatherhood – and whisky – features a group of working-class characters from a deprived Glasgow suburb. The film-makers insist that the dialogue – which is peppered with profanity – is natural. “We let the actors work with the script and put it into their own words,” explained producer Rebecca O’Brien. “Their own words just happened to be rich with local vernacular.”

Criticising the film-making establishment in general and the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in particular, the screenwriter Paul Laverty stopped himself and joked, “That rhymes with one of the words we had to cut!” 

Loach said it was surreal the extent to which the BBFC was obsessed by bad language. “They should have respect for ancient English language,” he insisted, noting that the word in question was used by Chaucer and Shakespeare. And noting that he used the C-word in the context of working class conversations, the BBFC was showing itself up to be working only for the middle classes.

The Angel’s Share was destined to receive an 18 certificate, which by any account would seem steep for a social comedy. To get it down to a 15, explained O’Brien, the BBFC would allow them only seven uses of that word – and only two could be aggressive. At the news conference in Cannes, she, Loach and Laverty all used the C-word liberally, to try to highlight how inoffensive it can be.

O’Brien contrasted the BBFC’s attitude towards language with the way it views violence, noting that the team’s previous films The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Route Irish contained torture scenes and received 15 certificates. “It’s really rather absurd in 2012 that you can have all the violence that you like and get 15 certificates, but language used almost as a term of endearment and certainly not used as a threat, gets an 18. It’s all about context. It’s utterly bonkers.”

If the BBFC is trying to promote diversity in Britain, she concluded, with decisions like this, it’s doing the opposite.

The film had previously courted controversy when the Cannes screening was shown with English subtitles, because of concerns that international viewers might have difficulty with the Glasgwegian accent. Loach said he fought the decision very hard. Laverty saw it as the lesser of two evils, prefering subtitles to making the actors reign in their accents. O’Brien said that subtitles made it easier to understand for non-English speakers, increasing the chances of selling the film abroad, but she insisted there would be no subtitles for the UK release; although she couldn’t say the same for other English-language territories.

 

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