TGIM! Ken Loach Q&A on ‘The Save the Children Fund Film’
Chances are you’ve never heard of Ken Loach’s untitled Save the Children documentary, which for the sake of argument is generally referred to as ‘The Save the Children Fund Film‘. That’s not because it’s no good (although we can’t really comment, because like most people in the world we’ve never seen it) but because it was never released. In 1969, Save the Children commissioned a documentary exploring its work in the UK and Africa to commemorate its fiftieth birthday, and Ken Loach was the obvious choice to direct. Still riding on the success of 1966’s gritty docudrama Cathy Come Home and winning universal acclaim for his latest film Kes, the passionate and liberal filmmaker seemed like an obvious choice to champion the charity’s work.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things worked out. The Save the Children Fund Film, which opens with a quote from Friedrich Engels, was savagely critical of what Loach perceived as the charity’s involvement in perpetuating colonial attitudes to the plight of native Kenyans. A relatively famous moment in the film features a wealthy white expat’s cheery voiceover assertion that the slum-dwellers living near (but not too near) her home were “really quite content in their poverty”, neatly juxtaposed with shots of child beggars. The film also explored Save the Children’s work in Manchester slums, illustrating the ignorant and impractical nature of any ‘rehabilitation’ programme which seeks to uproot children from their homes and utterly remodel them. Other painful scenes include Save the Children employees commenting viciously on the parents of English children in their care, and Loach visiting a Nairobi children’s home in which the children were forbidden to speak in their native languages.
Needless to say, Save the Children didn’t really feel their investment had gone as plan. They withdrew funding and successfully suppressed the film’s distribution for an even forty years (from its completion in 1971 to last year); Loach and his producer Tony Garnett’s company Kestrel Films was almost bankrupted by huge legal fees. Even now, The Save the Children Fund Film has been publicly screened only twice. Until this week.
Interested? Well, do we have a treat for you. This Thursday (19th April), the superb Peckhamplex in SE London will be hosting a screening of the film introduced by Loach himself, who will also be leading a discussion on his career and politics. Loach’s short film The Other 9/11, which addresses General Pinochet’s 1973 rise to power in Chile, will also be shown.
Tickets are £5 from this trade union site, which we recommend because it’s less mad than the Peckhamplex’s actual website. If you’ve got even a passing interest in Britain’s cinematic, colonial or charitable past then this really is an unmissable event – one of Britain’s greatest living filmmakers in conversation about one of the most scandalous cover-ups in our collective film history. See you there.