Monday, May 29, 2006

Film About IRA Takes Top Prize at Cannes

Ken Loach's film The Wind That Shakes The Barley has won the 2006 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm), the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, beating out 19 other films, including Spain's Volver and Mexico's Babel, this year's two favorites. The winning movie, whose title is inspired by the Irish folk song, is about the struggle for Irish independence during the Black and Tan War of the early 1920s, and is told from an Irish republican perspective. Shot on location in County Cork, the film was written by Paul Laverty, an Irishman who often partners with British director Loach, and stars an all-Irish cast, including Cillian Murphy, Orla Fitzgerald, Liam Cunningham and Padraig Delaney. It is a direct commentary on British imperialism, and director Loach said, "Maybe if we tell the truth about the past, maybe we tell the truth about the present," alluding to the film's stance as an allegorical anti-war critique of the war in Iraq.

Above, Cillian Murphy and Padraig Delaney as brothers Damien and Teddy, serving in the Irish Republican Army, in "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." photo

Cillian Murphy, who is from Douglas, County Cork, is making quite a name for himself (Breakfast on Pluto, Red Eye, Batman Begins, Cold Mountain, Girl with a Pearl Earring). According to, Murphy had this to say about Loach: "If there's an opportunity to work with Ken Loach, you can't really turn that down. He's made some of the finest films of the past 25 years. Whether you like or dislike his movies, there's never a bad performance in them, ever. There's none of the bullshit. There's no trailers, no nonsense, no pampering. It's a breath of fresh air." He plays a medical student who joins the guerilla war against the British, akin to the real-life story of Kevin Barry of H Company, Dublin Brigade of the IRA, whose story is chronicled in our pages (at(

Shake Hands with the Devil, released in 1959, is another movie that deals with the Irish War of Independence and a medical student; Jimmy Cagney played an Irish-American medical student who gets drawn into the conflict against his better judgment (

Above, lads seen taking up the armed struggle for Irish freedom, in another scene from Ken Loach's award-winning film, "The Wind That Shakes The Barley." photo

According to the BBC, The Wind that Shakes the Barley is to be released in Europe, but no date is scheduled yet for the United States. Laverty, though, tongue firmly in cheek, claims to have a notion about how to get distribution in the U.S., commenting to an American journalist covering Cannes: "If you could tell George Bush you have just seen a remarkable film about Republicans." The word is that the producers hoped to find a distributor while they were in Cannes; there is pre-Oscar buzz for Murphy, despite the lack of a current release date here.

Loach has won the jury prize at Cannes in 1990 for the film Hidden Agenda, about the implementation of shoot-to-kill policy by the British army in Northern Ireland. This year's is his first Palme d'Or. The Wind that Shakes the Barley will be released in June in England, with future release dates of September in Argentina and November in France. We eagerly await it stateside. -- Patricia Jameson-Sammartano, WGT Culture Editor,

Related Resources

* Official Preview Site ( (Select Coming Soon, Then The Film Title)

* 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' Review, TimeOut, London, May 19, 2006


* "Loach Films Wins Top Cannes Prize," BBC News, May 29, 2006

* "Loach Revisits Irish Struggle," BBC News, May 28, 2006

* 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' Set Visit,' TimeOut London, July 18, 2005


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