I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach’s stark reflection of the welfare state

In this blog Helena, digital assistant at sounddelivery shares her thoughts on storytelling around poverty in light of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. Sounddelivery has worked with those with firsthand experience of poverty to share their stories to challenge media stereotypes and use digital storytelling to take control of the narrative around poverty in the UK today.  […]

In this blog Helena, digital assistant at sounddelivery shares her thoughts on storytelling around poverty in light of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. Sounddelivery has worked with those with firsthand experience of poverty to share their stories to challenge media stereotypes and use digital storytelling to take control of the narrative around poverty in the UK today. 

I was lucky enough to see a preview of Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year. Loach’s new biopic shines a stark light on the modern welfare system following the narrative of a carpenter out of work following a heart attack and a single mother relocated from London to Newcastle in her search for social housing.

The film is brilliantly crafted, perfectly paced and Hayley Squires delivers a standout performance as single mum, Katie. Through an often harrowing but at times humorous portrayal Loach highlights the flaws of the benefit system and the cruelties that lie in its bureaucracy. The characters’ stories reflect struggles endured by many, researchers spoke to people with firsthand experience including food blogger and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, who noted DWP staff are ‘constrained by red tape and automatic responses’. Conversation around the film has seen people share their experiences of food banks, job centres and benefit sanctions that can be crippling. The depiction of the job centre staff was comical but the barriers, lack of empathy and ‘computer says no’ attitude can be said to be rather true-to-life.

‘It’s refreshing to have a piece of art from the perspective of claimants when they are usually treated with such negativity.’  Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group

When a spotlight is put on poverty it is rarely the voices of those with firsthand experience that are shared. This film, from the perspective of those living on the breadline echoes real experiences. I, Daniel Blake provides a voice for the untold stories of those who are truly in need of support from the state and who are constricted and punished by harsh-realities of the system. Ken Loach is a brilliant storyteller and his film challenges the fact that the media focus is too often given to those who abuse the benefit system through programmes that reinforce negative stereotypes like ‘Benefits Street’, rather than those who are in need. In a powerful speech Daniel Blake states, he is not a national insurance number, a scrounger, nor a client but a citizen.

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This emotive and thought-provoking film puts austerity centre stage sharing authentic, powerful stories that will be sure to generate discussion. It’s a must-see with the potential to have a great impact.

I, Daniel Blake is in cinemas from October 21st 2016 – don’t forget to spread the word (and bring tissues).

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