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Laverty, Paul (1957-)


Main image of Laverty, Paul (1957-)

Best known for his long and fruitful partnership with Ken Loach, Paul Laverty has penned a series of emotional screenplays fired by a robust sense of injustice that can verge upon didacticism. But they are also shot through with bittersweet comedy and, occasionally, romance.

Laverty comes from a remarkably cosmopolitan background. Born in Calcutta in 1957 to an Irish mother and Scottish father, he studied philosophy in Rome, then law in Glasgow. In the 1980s he worked for three years as a lawyer in Nicaragua, recording human rights abuses; he also travelled to Guatemala and El Salvador. He has remained keenly interested in Latin American affairs ever since.

In the late 1980s, Laverty contacted Loach with an idea for a screenplay - although his first collaboration with the director was a cameo in the Spanish Civil War drama Land and Freedom (1995), scripted by Jim Allen. Laverty's own proposal became Loach's next film, Carla's Song (1996), in which Robert Carlyle's Scottish bus-driver accompanies a Nicaraguan refugee back to her homeland at the height of the Sandinista/Contra conflict. The pair's follow-up, My Name is Joe (1998) created a star-making role for Peter Mullan as a recovering alcoholic, while Bread and Roses (2000) spotlighted Latina workers in Los Angeles struggling to unionise.

In 2002 Laverty won Cannes' best screenplay award for Sweet Sixteen, about a young Scottish delinquent battling for a better life, a milieu which Laverty and Loach revisited in lighter vein in the interracial love story Ae Fond Kiss (2004). Also in 2002, Laverty, Loach and their producer, Rebecca O'Brien, formed a company, Sixteen Films, which has been behind most of their work since, as well as a handful of films by other directors.

Laverty also wrote Loach's contributions to two compendium movies. In 11'09'01 (France/Egypt/UK, 2002), Laverty's segment pointedly recalled not the World Trade Centre disaster but 11 September 1973, when Salvador Allende's government in Chile was brutally deposed. Their contribution to Tickets (Italy/UK, 2005) was a comic sketch about football fans on a train.

Less well received have been his ventures with other directors: Cargo (Spain/UK, d. Clive Gordon, 2006), about a stowaway on a freighter, and TambiƩn la lluvia (Even the Rain, Spain/Mexico, 2010), the story of a Spanish film crew making a political epic about Christopher Columbus. But the Loach-Laverty team received a very high accolade when The Wind That Shakes the Barley (UK/Eire, 2006), a poetic portrait of Irish Republican fighters in the 1920s, won the Palme d'Or in Cannes.

Their films continue to swing between darkness and humour, with It's a Free World (2007), about the exploitation of migrant workers, Looking for Eric (France/UK, 2009), a light-hearted fantasy co-starring Eric Cantona, Route Irish (2010), a bleak thriller exploring the role of British mercenaries in Iraq, and, next, The Angel's Share (2012), a comedy about an ex-con trying to start a (legal) whisky distillery.

Sheila Johnston

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Ae Fond Kiss (2004)Ae Fond Kiss (2004)

Unusually tender Ken Loach feature about love across cultural divides

Thumbnail image of Bread and Roses (2001)Bread and Roses (2001)

Ken Loach's first US film, about the exploitation of Latino workers in LA

Thumbnail image of Carla's Song (1996)Carla's Song (1996)

Glaswegian-Nicaraguan love story about an idealistic bus driver

Thumbnail image of It's a Free World... (2007)It's a Free World... (2007)

Ken Loach's alarming portrait of the exploitation of immigrant labour

Thumbnail image of Land and Freedom (1995)Land and Freedom (1995)

Passionate tale of British volunteers fighting the Spanish Civil War

Thumbnail image of Looking for Eric (2009)Looking for Eric (2009)

Football-related supernatural buddy comedy from Ken Loach (!)

Thumbnail image of My Name Is Joe (1998)My Name Is Joe (1998)

Drama about a reformed alcoholic trying to run a failing soccer team.

Thumbnail image of Sweet Sixteen (2002)Sweet Sixteen (2002)

Bleak portrait of a Scottish teenager coping with drugs and poverty

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Thumbnail image of Ken Loach: Feature FilmsKen Loach: Feature Films

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Thumbnail image of Ken Loach and his collaboratorsKen Loach and his collaborators

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Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Loach, Ken (1936-)Loach, Ken (1936-)

Director, Writer