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May 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Ken Loach, who last came to the Cannes Film Festival four years ago, when he picked up the festival’s top Palme d’Or award for best film (The Wind that Shakes the Barley about the Irish battle for independence) has returned with a powerful muckraking movie condemning the Iraq War, Route Irish. While other films about the war, most of them thrillers, have attempted to bury the polarizing politics surrounding it — and failed pathetically at the box office in the process — Loach told a news conference at Cannes on Friday that he and screenwriter Paul Laverty embarked on the project by trying to figure out how they could convert their anti-war sentiments into a movie. “Because [the war] was a monstrous crime against the Iraqi people. It was illegal. We have tolerated torture. There has been massive corruption. It was a war fought for greed, naked greed, and the challenge was to find a story and the characters that would reveal this, a conflict, a knot that you could unravel and it would reveal the landscape of what happened in that war.” And if such a film fails at the box office? That would appear not to be a principal concern for Loach, who has been making controversial movies for half a century that have won numerous awards without ever striking box-office pay dirt. Route Irish is likely to be no exception. Loach told Friday’s news conference that his principal motivation was to spark discussion of such issues as: paying ex-soldiers enormous sums to return to Iraq as “private contractors” to help maintain order; and the utilization of torture to extract information from prisoners. One of the actors in the film agreed to be waterboarded for a particularly graphic scene. “Doing the scene was very interesting because it was the center of the film,” Loach said. “Waterboarding was sanctioned by the U.S. and of course condoned by the British government — whatever they say, because it is absurd to pretend they didn’t know. It breaks the Geneva Convention, it breaks our understanding of human rights, it breaks our commitment not to torture.” Loach also took a swipe at the Iraq War films that came before his, including The Hurt Locker, which won the best picture Oscar this year. While not mentioning the movie directly, he lashed out at recent U.S. films that celebrate the courage of American soldiers fighting in the war. “It disturbs me a little when we see films from America in which the main victims are American soldiers.
And it disturbs me even more when films like that are then dedicated to the American military because — sure, they suffered, but just think of the millions of Iraqis that are dead, families destroyed, children mutilated, homes smashed, four million people in exile — in that context I find it very disturbing that films about this war are dedicated to the American military.” His hope, he said, is to send a message to President Obama to put the men responsible for the war policies on trial so that future American bureaucrats will think twice about repeating them. However, he said, “if we can’t put them in the law courts we need to put them in the dock of public opinion, because they need to be held to account.”