The Spirit of '45
SCR Ken Loach
CAM Stephen Standen
ED Jonathan Morris
MUS George Fenton
PROD CO Fly Film Company / Sixteen Films / Film4
Winston Churchill won the war but lost the British general election that followed almost immediately. Why? According to the new documentary from the veteran socialist filmmaker Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley; Kes) the answer is quite simple: voters didn’t want to go back to the lean, hard years of poverty, sickness and mass unemployment they remembered from the 1920s and 30s, and charged with a vivid new belief in the power of the people, they backed— in a landslide—the socialist reform agenda offered by the Clement Atlee’s Labour movement.
Looking back at the parlous state of the British economy it’s astonishing how much Atlee and especially his minister for health and housing, Nye Bevan, achieved: they established the National Health Service, making medicine available to all regardless of means. They rebuilt cities pulverized by the blitz, and replaced slums with affordable council housing. They nationalized the railways, the utilities—gas, electricity, water, coal—and created a new sense of the nation as a support network to empower all its citizens, not just the elite.
Today, seniors who lived through this radical transformation express dismay at how the generations that benefitted most set about dismantling Atlee’s legacy—drastically so during Margaret Thatcher’s ideological crusade for private enterprise. Canadians won’t struggle to find homegrown parallels, and even if you don’t agree with Loach’s conclusions The Spirit of ’45 offers a poignant reminder that by rights, “welfare” shouldn’t be a dirty word.
Preceded By: Dry Stone Waller
DIR Kelvin Brown, Jacob Robinson / UK, 2013, 5 min.
Filmed in Cumbria, this is a celebration of the centuries-old skills that remains the dominant method of construction in the upland areas of Great Britain.