British filmmaker Ken Loach, whose most recent effort was this year’s documentary Spirit of ’45, will receive an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Beginning his career in television in the early 1960s, his docudrama Cathy Come Home, part of the BBC’s ‘Wednesday Play’ series, generated great public interest towards the issue of homelessness in the UK. It also served as an indicator of both Loach’s approach to filmmaking – steeped in cinema-vérité stule, he would eschew using professional actors in his casts for narrative films – and the gritty subject matter he would gravitate towards.
That vérité approach would occasionally ruffle feathers. A 1971 documentary, originally titled In Black and White and then known as The Save the Children Fund Film, was commissioned by London Weekend Television on the behalf of the British charity but was shelved by the group. It wasn’t shown in public until a 2011 screening by the BFI.
The Berlinale homage will feature a retrospective of 10 of Loach’s narrative films, including Cathy Come Home and Kes.
“Ken Loach is one of Europe’s great directors,’ said Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick in a statement. “Over his almost 50-year career, he has shown an extraordinary degree of continuity, while remaining innovative at all times. His profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society have found expression in a variety of cinematic approaches.
“We are honoring Ken Loach as a director and greatly admire him for how he reflects on social injustices with humor in his films.”
The Berlin International Film Festival takes place from February 6-16.