On March 17 at 3 pm 43 cinemas across the Britain, from Southampton to Aberdeen, will be screening Ken Loach’s new documentary feature The Spirit of ’45. The one-off screening will be followed by a live simulcast Q&A with the director, author Owen Jones and the National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Dot Gibson. The simultaneous screening across the country is one of the most eagerly anticipated cinematic events of recent times. Indeed, rarely has a documentary feature prompted such a national debate before its release as has The Spirit of ’45.
For those few who have escaped Ken Loach’s television and radio appearances or the awesome social media campaign that has accompanied The Spirit of ’45 it is worth going over just what exactly the documentary deals with. The Spirit of ’45 is, according to its official synopsis, ‘an impassioned documentary about how the spirit of unity which buoyed Britain during the war years carried through to create a vision of a fairer, united society.’ It is a documentary about how the collective sufferings of war galvanised the British people and manifested itself in a welfare society, buttressed by a welfare state predicated on a national health service and nationalised industry. The documentary aims to capture and rejuvenate the beginning of a truly social epoch in British history – an epoch that many today believe to be confined to a lost past or a semi-fictional, black and white existence on the dusty reals of British Pathé archives.
But The Spirit of ’45 has served a dual function. For the left in British politics it provides a visual polemic against Osborne and Cameron’s policies of austerity and cuts. The documentary is as much an alternative social and political narrative for contemporary Britain as it is an ode to a spirit of the past. This narrative is that what we have achieved once we can achieve again and create a better society in 2013. Indeed this subtle, yet powerful, rallying call for all socially minded citizens owes much to The Spirit of ‘45’s awesome social media campaign. Following @TheSpiritof45 or #Spiritof45 has circumvented the political debate carried in our traditional media and allows people to imagine not only what life would be like for them in 1945 but also what can be achieved through a unity of purpose in bleak economic times, like those we face today.
An outspoken champion of the working classes, Ken Loach is not afraid to make political arguments through his work, nor is he a stranger to creating a legacy through his films. The homeless charity Shelter owes much to his 1966 BBC Wednesday Play Cathy Come Home which inspired a generation of middleclass Britons to deal with social problems they were previously wilfully ignorant to. While many pundits may be uncertain as to what lasting legacy The Spirit of ’45 may leave, it is clear that Loach himself considers the safeguarding of the future of the National Health Service to be the focal point of any such legacy, the real gain from a documentary he calls ‘an act of rebellion’. Whatever is to come out of The Spirit of ’45 this March 17 it is clear Loach and his team have done enough to put the spirit of ’45 on the political agenda in 2013.
The Spirit of ’45 and simulcast Q&A will be screening in a one-off event at 15.00, Sunday March 17.
For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk. Follow @TheSpiritof45, #Spiritof45 and @cinemadownalane on Twitter to join in the debate.