FATHERLAND: LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY - NOTES ON AN ESSAY

Due for release by Indicator on 19 April 2021, this limited edition Blu-Ray of Ken Loach's Fatherland(1986) features my new essay on the film in the booklet that accompanies the first pressing.

Loach's film, which was released after a period in the late 1970s and early 1980s where he found it difficult to get work commissioned and financed, is all the more intriguing in that it was his only collaboration, to date, with the much admired writer Trevor Griffiths. Griffiths a successful theatre playwright had, like Loach, moved from television and into cinema. Both had a formidable creative and political sensibility running throughout their work and my essay, 'Third Man', chronicles their interweaving, parallel careers through to the development and writing of Fatherland.

My own interest in Loach's and Griffiths' work has grown since I first watched Fatherland on Channel 4 (who had co-funded the film) in the late 1980s. I was happy to revisit their careers to fulfil the essay brief to contextualise their work and its political drive. With a particular focus on Griffiths, the essay discusses each of Fatherland's collaborators, their shared politics of the left, their work for theatre, television and cinema and the way each has developed their own voice through their respective techniques in directing and writing. It also underlines their differences, coming into sharp relief in the many compromises that both had to make during the making of Fatherland. Each had something to say in the film, often from different perspectives, about media, culture and history, Europe and political struggle in a decade where the left was in retreat, particularly in Britain.

As this essay was researched and written last summer, during the lockdown in May and June 2020, it was a challenge to complete it while voluntarily shielding and on furlough. The impact of the coronavirus also prevented me from looking through Loach's and Griffiths' papers held at the BFI national archive. This was particularly upsetting as it would have been very rewarding to look more closely at the development of Fatherland's script and the correspondence between Loach and Griffiths. Fortunately, David Archibald's article on Loach's approach to acting, written for The Drouth in 2018, offered some of those insights from the archive.

I also had some familiarity with Griffiths' television work when I had first researched and reviewed his superb political drama Bill Brand, made for Thames in 1976 and released on DVD in 2011. The material gathered for that review was then extended through a deep read of several texts on Griffiths and Loach as well as newspaper and magazine research (thanks to the access provided by Manchester Central Library's online newspaper archives and to Film Comment's invaluable online archive during the first lockdown) to uncover contemporary interviews with Loach and Griffiths when Fatherland was released in 1986. 

I am particularly indebted to the work, published since the 1980s, of Graham Fuller, Stanton B. Garner, John Hill, Stephen Lacey, Jacob Leigh and John Tulloch whose chapters and books on the work of Loach, Griffiths and producer Tony Garnett were extremely helpful in the writing of the essay. 

The initial draft originally came in at 3600 words and through about three further drafts this came down to 3185 (still over the word count) in the final edit. Although a large chunk of about 145 words was cut without too much consequence during that last edit, the loss of an extended section on Barry Hines' two-part television play The Price of Coal (1977) was somewhat unfortunate. It was a pleasure writing this essay while re-visiting the politically prescient Fatherland, a somewhat neglected Loach film. I hope it offers the relevant context to those who may be unfamiliar with much of Griffiths' work in theatre, television and film prior to his collaboration with Loach.

FATHERLAND - INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES

  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Language Barriers (2021): new interview with editor Jonathan Morris
  • Talk About Work (1971): Ken Loach’s documentary for the Central Office of Information, photographed by Chris Menges, interviewing young people about their work
  • Right to Work March (1972): documentary film of a five-week protest march from Glasgow to London that saw the participation of a number of cultural figures, including Loach and other filmmakers
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Frank Collins, an archival interview with Ken Loach, an extract from Loach on Loach, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on the short films, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies
     

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It's good to see some of Loach's less regarded work on Blu-ray with Indicator's release of Fatherland alongside their limited edition of Loach's Carla's Song (1996) in April 2021. Both are available to pre-order from their website.

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