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The Save the Children Fund Film (1971)

Director Ken Loach explores the politics of race, class and charity in a capitalist society in this documentary funded by the Save the Children foundation.

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Director Ken Loach explores the politics of race, class and charity in a capitalist society in this documentary funded by the Save the Children foundation.

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1969 (UK)  »

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According to the book 'Which Side Are you On?', Ken Loach shot some of this documentary at a school in Kenya which had been financed by the Save the Children Fund. Loach felt the school was very similar to an English public school in the way it was run. The school was a joint venture between the Fund and Kenyan businessmen where the pupils were being groomed for positions within the Kenyan Civil Service. Pupils saluted the flag, teachers had to wear Western style clothes, one member of staff (who felt the school represented a new form of colonialism) had even been forbidden to wear a local style shirt. The head teacher had allegedly been involved in the killing of victims of the Mau Mau uprising. The Save the Children Fund attempted to have the cutting copy of the film destroyed when they found that Loach had depicted these aspects of the school. See more »

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This documentary was banned for over 40 years
2 September 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This 50 minute documentary was made in 1969 (just after director Ken Loach completed Kes) but was viewed publicly for the first time in 2011. It was jointly funded by the UK's London Weekend Television and UK-based charity Save the Children, as a document on their work. Ken Loach remembers a screening with Save the Children when people walked out - though he can't remember if he was there. Producer Tony Garnett remembers a screening with LWT executives as the most uncomfortable hour of his professional life. The film became embroiled in a legal battle that nearly bankrupted the fledgling Kestrel Films. Although Save the Children wanted all traces of the film destroyed ultimately a compromise was agreed where a single print of the film (without titles, credits etc) would be given to the British Film Institute archive until such a time as the charity felt comfortable with it being shown. It took over 40 years and their continuing discomfort with the film was evident in the face of the charity's CEO, Justin Forsyth, who had come along to discuss it after the 2011 screening to a packed auditorium at the BFI. When challenged by Garnett, Forsyth conceded through gritted teeth that Save the Children would not object to the film being shown on TV, but immediately raised other problems with broadcasting the film, rather contradicting what he'd said earlier about the importance of having the debates raised by the film more widely.

So what caused so much fuss? The film argues that Save the Children's work with poor children in Kenya and with urban working-class children in England is part of a wider project of aid and charity which serves to salve the consciences of the white middle-classes while keeping in place the conditions that lead to poverty. According to the film, any solution must address the underlying economic causes of inequality and deprivation and not just through fair trade or debt cancellation but through the overthrow of capitalism. The film's language of socialist revolution is one that is no longer part of our public vocabulary. However, the issues raised are still relevant - how ex colonial powers keep Africa in a position of debt and dependence, as a space that can service their needs, and how the middle-classes present their own way of life (and of parenting in particular) as the solution to social deprivation. This film is worth seeing alone for the directness of its politics. John Pilger and Michael Moore make some great, angry documentaries but nothing like this.


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