British director Ken Loach has won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or award for his film I, Daniel Blake, a drama exploring the British welfare system.
The Palme d’Or, presented annually at the international film festival in France, is awarded to the director of the best feature film of the competition and is considered the festival’s highest prize.
Loach’s win places him among an esteemed group of just eight other directors who have won the Palme d’Or twice. Loach previously won in 2006 for his film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, about two brothers during the Irish War of Independence.
Twenty finalists were in contention for this year’s Palme d’Or, which was presented by American actor Mel Gibson and Australian director George Miller.
Loach worked with longtime collaborator and writer Paul Laverty on the winning film, which stars stand-up comedian Dave Johns in his first film role as Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old joiner who must continue working after having a heart attack yet being denied welfare benefits.
The film follows the relationship developed between Blake and Katie, a young single mother of two played by British actress Hayley Squires, as they navigate different issues within welfare bureaucracy after crossing paths in Newcastle.
Loach accepted the Palme d’Or saying, ‘This neoliberal world in which we live risks leading us to disaster. Another world is possible and necessary.’
Soon to turn 80, Loach often uses his films to address societal issues, featuring a social realist style of directing. He typically casts emerging rather than established actors to make his films seem more realistic. The seasoned director returned from retirement to work on his most recent film.
I, Daniel Blake is Loach’s 19th film to premiere at Cannes and is one of more than 50 movies Loach has directed throughout his career. Loach directed well-known social dramas Cathy Come Home and Kes in the early 1960s. He has been nominated for the Palme d’Or 13 times and has been awarded Cannes’ Jury Prize three times in 1990, 1994 and 2012 for his films Hidden Agenda, Raining Stones, and The Angels’ Share.
The Jury Prize was presented this year to another British director, Andrea Arnold, for her film American Honey, starring Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf and American actress Sasha Lane in her first role.
With this win, Arnold ties Loach for the most Jury Prizes received at Cannes. Arnold’s previous Jury Prize wins included Red Road in 2006 and Fish Tank in 2009.
Other notable wins from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival include Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World for the Grand Prix award, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s Bacalaureat and French director Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper for Best Director, and Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Forushande for Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
Versus: The Life And Films Of Ken Loach, a behind-the-scenes documentary about Loach’s more than 50 years in the film industry, will be premiering in theaters next month. The documentary will feature interviews with Loach, as well as with his friends and collaborators.