30 May 2011
ROUTE IRISH - (Dir. Ken Loach, 2010, UK/France/Italy/Belgium/Spain)
As long we have Ken Loach, Paul Laverty and Rebecca O Brien working together as a collective then a credible and strong political discourse exists in British cinema. With Loach is it not right to compare his films to each other or attempt to position Route Irish via an authorial approach because all of his films are motivated by social currents. The cinematic dialogue by British film makers on the subject of Iraq continues to lack any kind of engaged political vigour and the relative absence of any kind of social criticism of the war crimes committed in Iraq by the British government is representative of British cinema’s acquiescence. Route Irish might actually be one of the first British films to represent and address the displacement of Iraqi people who have been forced to flee their homes in Iraq as a direct consequence of the invasion and occupation. At first the presence of an Iraqi exile may seem contrived but Harim (Talib Rasool) is a well constructed character given a platform from which to express a maligned voice typically repressed in the mainstream media. His talents as a musician actually makes him more intelligent than Fergus whilst the victimisation he faces at the hands of hired thugs indicts private security firms as yet another ugly manifestation of corporate hegemony. Whilst The Wind That Shakes The Barley offers an allegory of imperialism and the politics of occupation, Route Irish approaches neo colonialism through the narrative of two Liverpudlians and British mercenaries; Fergus (Mark Womack) and Frankie (John Bishop). Consistency especially an ideological one is exceptionally rare in cinema and whilst he continues to face the wrath of a right wing media in the UK, the intentions of Loach to make the film he wants to and on his terms has to be commended. With the suspicious death of close friend Frankie in Iraq, Fergus sets upon a personal investigation and uncovers an all too familiar conflict; people vs. profits. In the final analysis, Fergus does get a chance to re-address the political imbalance but his complicity in the war crimes of Iraq equates him with the merchants of war.