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Cannes veteran Ken Loach says making films ‘hard job to give up’

CANNES, France (AFP) ― Cannes veteran Ken Loach returned to the festival on Thursday with “Jimmy’s Hall,” the story of a 1930s political activist and his dance hall in rural Ireland, which may ― or may not ― be his last film.

Loach, 77, who holds the record for bringing more films to Cannes than any other film-maker, had said “Jimmy’s Hall” would be his feature film swansong so he could dedicate himself to documentary making.

But Loach ― who has always shunned Hollywood in favor of the artistic freedom to develop his own brand of socially-conscious films ― on Thursday said it was a “hard job to give up” and the question was still up in the air.

“I said that (about retirement) at a moment of maximum pressure when we hadn’t shot a foot of film and the mountain in front of us was quite high and I thought ’I can’t get through this again’,” he told reporters.

“But you come out the other end, you know. We feel we (will) just watch the World Cup (in June) and then see what the autumn brings,” the British director, who is a keen football fan, said.

“There may be a little film, maybe not, we’ll see. It’s a hard job to give up.”

Loach’s earlier comments caused alarm among fans of the “Kes” and “Looking for Eric” director.

He first came to Cannes with “Kes” in 1969 and a second Irish-set film “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” won the festival’s top Palme d’Or prize in 2006.

Laced with comedy, “Jimmy’s Hall” is based on a true story in which Church and landowners mobilize to try and thwart the real-life character of Jimmy Gralton and his dance hall.

It will have its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival later on Thursday.

Loach’s 12th film to be invited to compete for the Palme d’Or returns to Ireland 10 years after the events of “The Wind That Shakes The Barley.”

In the film, Jimmy comes home from America after a decade away to look after his mother in County Leitrim.

The community, enthralled by his winning personality, jazz and blues records and exciting tales of New York life, rally round to help set up his hall and people flock to dances and educational activities there.

But the hall and its socialist ethos soon attract the attention of the powers that be and a struggle ensues.

Loach said Jimmy, whose life screenwriter Paul Laverty researched in depth, posed a clear challenge to the vested interests of the time.

“Jimmy is a threat and the dancing he is doing is a threat to the strict moral instruction that the church gives and that the church is determined to control,” Loach told AFP in an interview.

“He’s a threat to the men of property... because of his (socialist) politics.”

Loach said Jimmy also emerged from the sources available as a very attractive, free-spirited and generous character.

One story uncovered during the research had him helping a homeless man in New York after the vagrant stole his trousers.

Jimmy intrigued everyone, even the “deadly serious and savage-at-heart” priest in the film, he said.

“He sees that Jimmy is a man of integrity and he’s curious about the music. He has to forbid it but there’s something about it that gets to him,” he said.

Loach added that the hall he built was no longer there but that some of the original posts remained on the boggy land along with a commemorative plaque.

Close to the site, Jimmy’s former family home is now abandoned and dilapidated although it is still owned by the Gralton family.

If Jimmy were alive today, Loach said, he would be fighting “the big corporations that are taking over... that are now across Europe and control us all, that are almost beyond our democracy.”

“This is where the new battle lines are drawn (and) Jimmy would absolutely be in there in that fight, trying to build a movement,” he said.
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