The Baftas went according to plan, if not exactly according to type, and the pundits’ predictions were largely correct, although it is sad that Moonlight did not get the silverware that it deserved. There was actually an interestingly political and dissentient flavour to the evening, with wins for I, Daniel Blake in the best British film category, occasioning a stirring speech from that remarkable film-maker Ken Loach, whose return from retirement has been marked with one of the biggest hits of his career. Ava DuVernay had the prize for documentary with her angry, uncompromising and unmissable film 13th, a barnstorming attack on the poisonous residue of Jim Crow and slavery in America’s penal and criminal justice system. These wins are all more relevant and appropriate for our new lurch into chaotic, reactionary and mendacious politics. And a mention should go to Daniel Mulloy’s excellent film Home, winner in the short film category — a welcome and imaginative engagement with the refugee situation.
All of which has to bring us back to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. It is a film which has its doubters, who are uneasy with what are arguably rough edges, and I myself wouldn’t argue that it is flawless. But it has something which is lacking in so many British social-realist film, or films of all kinds. I, Daniel Blake has passion. It is enraged about injustice in the real world and, in Churchill’s words, sees no need to be impartial between the firemen and the fire. It is a movie which repeatedly hits the C major chord of unashamed idealism and standing up for the benefit claimant and the unemployed. This is an issue that has been revived again with the recent BBC drama The Moorside, about the Shannon Matthews case: how do you represent the working classes on screen? Loach and his longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty chose not to do that kind of big, real-life case of grisly irony and bad faith, but a fictional, researched conglomerate of a thousand, unsung little cases of people who are not in fact skivers or scammers, but people left exposed by the new political austerity. The I, Daniel Blake award was a ringing Bafta moment.