BAM’s Salute to IFC Opens With Loach Gem

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Beginning this weekend, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will pay tribute to IFC Films, the eight-year-old distributor that scored its first major hits with “Y tu mamá también” in 2001 and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in 2002. Lately, IFC has found its niche in simultaneous theatrical and video-on-demand releases of critical favorites such as Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” and the new series at BAM will add another rung to that ladder. Aside from highlighting sneak previews of upcoming films from Gus Van Sant, Claude Chabrol, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Christopher Honoré, the series will feature the American premiere of Ken Loach’s “It’s a Free World …,” which will apparently skip the usual IFC Center pit stop and head straight to video on demand under IFC Films’s new Festival Direct banner.

Mr. Loach’s latest, which won the Best Screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival in August, suffered a similar direct-to-TV fate in its native England, where about 800,000 viewers tuned in for its Channel 4 broadcast. Which is a real shame, because “It’s a Free World …” is one of the most accessible films the 71-year-old native of England has made. The film, which will open the IFC Films tribute tonight at 7 p.m., is relentlessly gripping through its 93 minutes, without a dull enough moment for viewers to even catch a breather. It is also fiercely uncompromising, as one would expect of Mr. Loach, fully penetrating the plight of migrant workers in Britain, where other recent films, such as “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Once,” merely treated it as window dressing.

We meet our heroine, Angie (Kierston Wareing), in Poland, where she is interviewing job candidates for a British recruitment agency. She openly accepts a roll of cash as a startlingly above-the-table bribe, and later meets a recruit for drinks and slips him her hotel room key. If Angie is something of a lowlife, she certainly isn’t the only one — she fends off the unwanted advances of a colleague by dumping a drink on him. After she returns to London, she is fired arbitrarily and decides to launch her own temp agency with her roommate, Rose (Juliet Ellis). Angie rides her motorcycle around East London, charming migrant workers and factory supervisors alike. Her new venture is up and running in no time, and she assures Rose that she will finesse the permits and other legalities in due course.

Although Angie is initially insistent about employing only documented workers, the profit she stands to gain from exploiting labor loopholes proves irresistible. She starts dabbling in selling fake papers, while Rose schemes up a double-shift dormitory for the workers that will earn the partners several thousands each month. But when an employer suddenly vanishes before paying the wages, affairs inevitably veer off course.

“It’s a Free World …” ponders the cycle of exploitation in today’s global economy. Unlike her parents’ generation, Angie has never known job stability. As a single mother, she has always done what is necessary to provide, even at the cost of her conscience. So she profits from migrant workers just as her former employers took advantage of her.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty has collaborated with Mr. Loach on seven features — including 2000’s “Bread & Roses,” which revolved around illegal domestic workers staging a protest in Los Angeles. The two have never reduced this complex subject matter to black-and-white issues or sought to cast blame, but they have clearly outdone themselves with “Free World” by succinctly outlining the global scale of this phenomenon and those who feed on it out of necessity. And thanks to Mr. Loach’s masterful filmmaking, such weighty material never drones. The youngsters clearly have nothing on this auteur, who manages to turn a realist social drama into something as electrifying as an action flick.

BAM’s Tribute to IFC Films runs through March 6 (30 Lafayette Ave., between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street, Brooklyn, 718-636-4100).

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use