This post has been republished for the UK General Election 2017 here
I, Daniel Blake hit closer to home than any other film in my lifetime. However, reviews by Camilla Long, Sunday Times film critic and Toby Young, Daily Mail, mock the disabled and vulnerable people caught in the catch-22 welfare system in this powerful and beautifully honest film. To me that rings alarm bells about the UK psyche.
Astounding performances were given by Dave Johns as Daniel Blake who found himself in the bureaucracy of the welfare system after a heart attack, and Hayley Squires as Katie, a single mum. You will fall in love with their characters and realise they could easily be you or your loved one tomorrow.
I sobbed uncontrollably along with many others in the cinema as Daniel said ‘I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar, nor a thief’. Though I have never knowingly been called these, I had no idea the impact these words associated with disabled people had had on me till now. It crushed me more knowing these were the lasting words thousands of disabled people have gone to their graves hearing after being declared ‘fit for work’. Finally the relentless persecution and breaches of disabled people’s human rights in the UK by our Tory government – the first to be reported by the UN, has been captured by director Ken Loach for the world to see.
However Camilla Long’s article for the Sunday Times snubbed the film as;
“misery porn for smug Londoners”
“we must believe Daniel wouldn’t at any point think to simply telephone his doctor or remotely entertain the idea of learning about computers”
Well how stupid disabled people are not to just ‘phone the doctor’! The controversy of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is that medical evidence is overruled by the private companies carrying out the assessments. Camilla’s comment shows how out of touch and uneducated she is. She probably tells homeless people to ‘just get a job’ too! SMH. And talk about victim blaming, Daniel was disabled from a heart attack but deserved to be in poverty because he couldn’t use a computer? Erm..ok.
She continued to spit hate over on Twitter:
Real nice. And by ‘povvo’ she means ‘poor people’ by the way.
Likeminded Toby Young described the film as “unremittingly depressing”in his Daily Mail article. Well I suppose being seriously ill and tangled in a welfare trap would be a tad disheartening? Possibly ‘thought provoking’ might be more relevant? Like Camilla, he too was angry;
“The two protagonists are a far cry from the scroungers on Channel 4’s Benefits Street, who I accept aren’t representative of all welfare recipients…Loach…has an absurdly romantic view of benefit claimants. Daniel is a model citizen. At no point do we see him drinking, smoking, gambling, or even watching television. No, he is a welfare claimant as imagined by a member of the upper-middle class metropolitan elite. He listens to Radio 4, likes classical music and makes wooden toys for children — the kind of over-priced ‘artisanal’ tat sold in ‘alternative’ toyshops in Islington, where Loach lives.”
Yes that’s right – Toby was actually annoyed that the characters did not reflect those on Benefits Street – his only ‘interaction’ with people on welfare!
Well Toby I am disabled on benefits, I don’t smoke, drink, gamble or watch TV. I have a BA Hons degree, am artistic and articulate. I have been to classical concerts and last week I even had a Sunday roast in Islington! So I guess I am Ken Loach’s muse for his ‘absurdly romantic view of benefit claimants?’ Where are my royalties Ken?
Toby then offers the offensive remark;
Judging by its misty-eyed, laughably inaccurate portrait of benefits Britain, it should be called a ‘romantic comedy’.
Ok, Camilla and Toby are simply immature, spoilt little brats, throwing their toys out of their privileged ignorant bubble. They clearly hate that disabled and poor people want basic human rights.
Ken Loach researched real life case stories, DWP statistics, disability activist groups, Prime Minister Questions and Work Capabilty Assessment reports for this film. Camilla and Toby watched Benefits Street.
Maybe Camilla and Toby should try educating themselves by taking part in the annual Live Below The Line living on £1 a day for 5 days. Or speak to those visiting a food bank. Basically, get an insight of people on welfare by erm, communicating with people on welfare? And maybe reading a bit, instead of watching sensationalist television drivel?
I, Daniel Blake is a film everyone must watch. An important story that needed to be told, not in hindsight but now, whilst it is still happening. All sections of society including MPs is need to unite and petition parliament to ensure the torment of the most vulnerable in society stops once and for all.
I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user.
I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar, nor a thief.
I am not a national insurance number, nor a blip on a screen.
I paid my dues, never a penny short and proud to do so.
I don’t tug the forelock, but look my neighbour in the eye.
I don’t accept or seek charity.
My name is Daniel Blake, I am a man, not a dog.
As such, I demand my rights. I demand you treat me with respect.
I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less. Thank you.
The UN Inquiry into the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the UK
Camilla Long, Sunday Times
Toby Young, Daily Mail
Live Below The Line