I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Twenty eight annual members, 45 day members, and two guests turned out to watch this superbly acted film. It shows the life of the eponymous protagonist and a 'young lass' he befriends as they battle their way against the bureaucratic and systemically disjointed social security system. The film shows them having to turn to a food bank for support and this was all the cue we needed to invite Nourish Community Foodbank to journey down from Tunbridge Wells and collect a huge load of donated food and cash that our generous audience brought with them. Dawn Stanford took the microphone for a few minutes to explain the work of Nourish and thank those that contributed. Two short films were screened first. The Gunfighter, written by Kevin Tenglin and directed by Eric Kissack assuaged our MC's urge to watch a western in the most amusing way - it's always satisfying when an audience appreciates the selection to the extent that they applaud it. The second short film The Journey of a Stateless Man by Daniel Ali was easier for the discussion group to compare and contrast with I, Daniel Blake. It depicts the journey of a Bidoon Jinsiyya Kuwaiti attempting to get to England as, for all its failings, he saw it as a better place than that of his birth. A couple of days after the film we heard that the total donations received by Nourish were £146.53 in cash and 306.98 Kg of food. They also picked up several new volunteers.
A powerful emotive film illustrating the gross inadequacies of our social welfare system and rigorous adherence to the unrelenting maintenance of the proscribed system. Those working in the government departments, with only one or two exceptions, refused even to listen to the clients' individual difficulties, causing anger and frustration on both sides, and resulting in the eventual loss of Daniel Blake's self esteem. The short film dealing with the migrant from Kuwait, who had managed the hazardous journey all the way to The Jungle in Calais, leaving his wife and children behind, asked the question 'Is this living?' The other short, a humorous cowboy spoof, also sent a moral message. A large group gathered for the discussion and at least three among the assembly had had first hand, bad experiences, of the job seeking process. It was thought that maybe, so heavily upervised as they were in the welfare offices, the staff kept to the letter of the system for fear of losing their own jobs. Some thought it unconvincing that Daniel Blake, at 59 in 2015, had no computer knowledge whatsoever, others disagreed. Everyone sympathised with the frustration of time running out at the crucial moment on library computers. The majority didn't believe Dan would have had ready to read out the statement which Katie later used as his eulogy; we thought that was Ken Loach making the political point - the state had killed Daniel Blake. The plight of Katie and her children had a great affect, her hunger in the food bank, her struggle to do the best for her children, her eventual need to shoplift. Most of the group decided the shop security man and the manager were in conspiracy together, getting Katie to prostitute herself. There was equal anxiety for the migrant from Kuwait and his despondency. Would he ever get to Britain, would we welcome him if he did? Everyone enjoyed the light relief of the cowboy story.