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BEAR NECESSITIES: Socially-minded British director Ken Loach can add a Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement to his multiple prizes from Cannes, Venice and other major film festivals.
Loach was honored on Thursday night with a gala event, which included a moving speech from Czech director JiŇ™√≠ Menzel, who called Loach ‚§Ĺcourageous and rebellious‚§ for his films that both criticize society and humanize their subjects, the ordinary and the oppressed.¬† For his part, Loach cited Menzel and other filmmakers active in Prague in the 1960‚§™s as a major influence.¬† He also warned that ‚§Ĺwe live in darkening times,‚§¬† and called for a new united Europe, saying,¬† ‚§Ĺif we don‚§™t have a Europe of equality, we won‚§™t have a Europe at all.‚§
Ten of Loach‚§™s films, from 1966‚§™s ‚§ĹCathy Come Home‚§ to 2009‚§™s ‚§ĹLooking for Eric‚§ have been screening throughout the Berlinale, and events throughout the week were held to celebrate him.¬† Loach was¬† feted in a reception in the Glash√¼tte Original Lounge;¬† the German watch brand is the sponsor of the festival‚§™s Retrospective and Homage sections.¬† And speaking to a packed room of film fans in a talk on Wednesday, he recalled his early days in the business, musing,¬† ‚§Ĺit was alleged - quite wrongly I think - that I was the worst actor in England!‚§¬† Loach quickly found his niche first in television then a film director, and is known as the founder of British Social Realism.¬† Often cast with non-professional actors, Loach‚§™s films border fiction and documentary, and have resulted in social and policy changes in the UK.
In a Thursday press conference,¬† Loach addressed rumors that ‚§ĹJimmy‚§™s Hall,‚§¬† his film that‚§™s currently in post-production, will be his last fiction feature.¬† Admitting that at 77, he did see the movie-making process as requiring a lot of stamina for someone ‚§Ĺat the wrong end of the 70s,‚§¬† nonetheless,¬† ‚§Ĺit‚§™s not a privilege that you give up lightly.‚§
The next day, it was politics as usual for Loach.¬† The director, who was active in founding a new British political party called New Unity, spoke Friday at Berlin‚§™s Haus der Demokratie on the subject of the crisis in Europe and the rise of the New Left.