This week BUFS is pleased to present I, Daniel Blake, a heartfelt political Drama from English director Ken Loach.
Ken Loach’s 2016 Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake follows an ailing carpenter fighting to stay on welfare. The film reflects the current socio-economic climate in the United Kingdom and shares the devastating reality of being in the welfare system. Focusing on Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), a 59-year-old carpenter from Newcastle who was forced to stop working due to a heart condition as he fights to keep his welfare benefits. Addressing the bureaucratic cruelty, we all subject to face, the film is able to resonate beyond national borders.
Brute, contentious, and looking much older than he actually is, Daniel Blake is a childless widower who recently suffered a heart attack. Initially receiving Employment and Support Allowance from the British state, his benefits are denied unexpectedly and the state wants him to go back to work instantly despite his doctor not clearing him for work. The agony of the appeals process, the jumping of hoop through hoop only to wait and be denied or met with unreasonable demands is what Daniel’s life is quickly engulfed with. Not only does he have to spend 35 hours a week applying for jobs he knowingly, medically not allowed to take, he also has to prove to the state that he has done so. The viewers, with Daniel Blake quickly learn that the welfare system is designed not to work.
Without these benefits, Daniel Blake will be forced into homelessness and after spending his entire life as a carpenter, he has almost no formal education or knowledge of the digital world. The film frames Daniel in a light of recognition rather than pity, so when he does not know how to use even the mouse on a computer, the audience feels familiarity for someone in their life, rather than contempt for someone out of the loop.
Addressing matters of gentrification, the characters in I, Daniel Blake are framed so the blame is to be put on the system rather than villainizing participants in the welfare program. An interesting approach to the topic at hand, Loach beautifully highlights the impersonal and broken system many struck by the class divide have to face regardless of whatever country they reside in..
I, Daniel Blake screens Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Landmark Theatres, Pen Centre. Visit www.brocku.ca/bufs for details.