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Land and Freedom (1995)

Courtesy of Sixteen Films

Main image of Land and Freedom (1995)
DirectorKen Loach
Production CompaniesParallax Pictures, Messidor Films, Road Movies Filmproduktion Gmbh
ProducerRebecca O'Brien
ScreenplayJim Allen
Director of PhotographyBarry Ackroyd
Original Music byGeorge Fenton

Cast: Hart, Ian (Dave Carne); Rosana Pastor (Blanca); Frédéric Pierrot (Bernard); Tom Gilroy (Lawrence); Icíar Bollaín (Maite)

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A young Liverpudlian man joins an international brigade in the Spanish Civil War, fighting in support of the Republican struggle against fascism.

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Throughout his career, Ken Loach's socialist beliefs have coloured his work. The Spanish Civil War was the first major war against fascism and a vital struggle for the international Left of the 1930s. As David Carne (Ian Hart) says at the end of the film, "had we succeeded here - and we could have done - we would have changed the world." This conclusion reflects Loach's view that for a time there was a real possibility of social revolution, which could have spread to other countries from Spain, had the Republicans succeeded there.

Like most films dealing with historical events, Land and Freedom (1995) has not escaped accusations of inaccuracy, particularly in relation to the chronology of events. Strict accuracy is sacrificed to focus on David's moral growth and his increasing understanding of the revolutionary ideals at stake. His simple idealism when he first goes to Spain is matched by his oft-repeated need to see 'with his own eyes'. This reflects his developing awareness of the political situation, notably his gradual recognition of the Stalinists' betrayal of the working-class.

The framing device - after his death in 1990s Liverpool, David's granddaughter (Suzanne Maddock) reads his letters home during the conflict - allows the film to comment on the War from a contemporary perspective. Writer Jim Allen has commented, "It's got to be relevant today, otherwise it's meaningless." Loach has also spoken of the contemporary resonance of the War: "I think if one has to pick one thing, it is, in the end, the idea of working-class loyalty - to use an old-fashioned term - and solidarity." Loach and Allen saw echoes of the social conditions in 1930s' Spain in the Britain of the 1980s and '90s, with mass unemployment and the rise of the far right, and they wanted to show that connection in the film.

Like other Loach films, Land and Freedom shows some of the complexities of the class struggle, in particular the compromises made by the leaders, often at the expense of those people the organisation is intended to protect. The divisions between the revolutionary groups opposing Franco are shown to be pivotal in their downfall. Blanca (Rosana Pastor) is shot by a member of the Popular Army and, as Loach has said, "When she is killed you know that the revolution has died with her."

Ros Cranston

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Video Clips
1. Arrival in Spain (2:59)
2. Land dispute (6:19)
3. Brothers in arms (2:40)
Production stills
Carla's Song (1996)
Ackroyd, Barry (1954-)
Allen, Jim (1926-99)
Fenton, George (1950-)
Hart, Ian (1964-)
Hibbin, Sally (1953-)
Laverty, Paul (1957-)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
Morris, Jonathan (1949-)
O'Brien, Rebecca (1957-)
Smith, Roger
Ken Loach: Feature Films
Liverpool: Speaking Out