FunView"Me, Daniel Blake" (Arte): Moving reckoning with austerity policies

"Me, Daniel Blake" (Arte): Moving reckoning with austerity policies

The British welfare system is being saved to death. “I, Daniel Blake” mercilessly points out the injustices.

Ken Loach is an avowed socialist. The filmmaker does not try to hide this attitude in his works. With strong criticism of the system and the decision-makers in British politics, he wants to give millions of Britons a voice. “Me, Daniel Blake” is moving, makes angry and shows the bleak life of the socially disadvantaged – it’s just not subtle.

“Me, Daniel Blake” (Arte): Moving accounting with the system

The film accompanies Daniel Blake’s existence and social decline. 59 years old, widower and carpenter from Newcastle upon Tyne in northern England. He is unable to work after a heart attack. At least that’s what his doctor says. Despite this clear realization and nerve-wracking hours in the phone queue, Daniel Blake does not manage to get the welfare from the state, which he should actually be entitled to. He is dismissed, sent back and forth and put into a bind by the meticulous bureaucracy. Because of his medical condition, he cannot work – and yet he is forced to look for a job. Otherwise there is a risk of sanctions. All while he is running out of the little money.

Even if the situation in which Daniel Blake finds himself sometimes seems badly forced, it still feels real. The perceived anger as well as the frustration of the protagonist are understandable and give at least a glimpse of everyday life that millions of people have to struggle through every day.

Me, Daniel Blake motion pictures
Publishing year 2016
length 100 minutes
Director Ken Loach
script Paul Laverty
production Rebecca O’Brien
Awards including Golden Palm (2016)

For the film, screenwriters Paul Laverty and Ken Loach have extensively explored the experiences of the British working class over the past decade. A time that is politically all about austerity. Under the social reforms of the conservative government and minister Iain Duncan Smith (who is explicitly mentioned at one point in the film), the social safety net was gradually torn apart, while bureaucratic hurdles were raised for the needy.

“Me, Daniel Blake” (Arte): Bureaucratic dilemma

In a conflict with the authorities, Daniel Blake meets Katie Morgan, a single mother of two who had to say goodbye to her life in London and move to Newcastle – with hardly any money in her wallet. She also messes with the administration and feels that she has been treated unfairly. Nobody there seems to be interested in the fact that her two children in particular are suffering from the situation. For them, Katie does not eat regular meals.

Me, Daniel Blake

Wednesday, May 19, 2021, 8.15 p.m. at Arte and in the Arte media library

You have no choice but to go to the table. With the long line in front of the building that Katie and Daniel have to walk past – a path of shame, so to speak – Ken Loach shows the dramatic consequences of the consistent austerity policy. Because they share their fate with too many people. Despite the wealth of Britain, millions of people depend on the food banks to support their families. A frightening situation that has only worsened since the film was made in 2016. The scene in the blackboard is poignant, disturbing – but they still haven’t hit rock bottom.

“Me, Daniel Blake” (Arte): Millions rely on the board

Daniel Blake and Katie Morgan are slowly saying goodbye to their dignity and resorting to desperate measures to make ends meet. The only thing left to them is themselves. The few bright spots are moments of human affection and togetherness in the working class Newcastle against unjust treatment.

The contrast between the board and the job center is also striking. Some are empathetic and have an open ear for the worries and needs of the poor. Ken Loach, on the other hand, portrays the staff in the authorities as cold, callous machines in a system characterized by chicane. Anyone who stands up for the “little man” and shows solidarity will be reprimanded from above and run the risk of getting under the wheels themselves.

“Me, Daniel Blake” at Arte: Settlement with the austerity policy

In the UK the film seems to have hit a nerve. Politically, the film made waves. During Question Time with then Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn asked her to watch the film. Corbyn sharply criticized the welfare system under the Conservative government. The minister responsible for the welfare system at the time, Iain Duncan Smith, railed against the film as an unfair portrayal of employees in job centers. Producer Rebecca O’Brien replied that Smith lived in a fantasy world.

role Actress
Daniel Blake Dave Johns
Katie Morgan Hayley Squires

“I, Daniel Blake” really didn’t change anything. For those who should feel addressed by the film, it is just fiction and, on top of that, a highly one-sided and populist representation of the situation. (Lukas Rogalla)

For Ken Loach, “I, Daniel Blake” was still not the end of it. In 2019 “Sorry We Missed You” was released. The drama takes a critical look at the dark side of the booming gig economy.

Arte shows the three-part series “Hidden in the tall grass”: The secrets of the...

In his three-part Arte series, writer and director Jérôme Bonnell subverts the carefree tone of lightweight summer comedies.

Today on Arte: “Das Haus” – science fiction with Tobias Moretti

The star of this all too quiet science fiction drama is not Tobias Moretti, but the high-tech domicile that gives it the title.

Diane Kruger: Germany remains my home

Even though she lives in New York and has made a career in Hollywood, Diane Kruger has not forgotten where her roots are.

“Heated up – The battle for the climate” (Arte): Inconvenient truths

Arte is dedicating a four-hour long theme evening to the battle for the climate and shows, among other things, what we can all do to reduce our ecological footprint.

Drought in Europe (Arte): The disaster is homemade

In a documentary film, an Arte team sheds light on the background to droughts in Europe - and looks for prospects for the future.