In Strategy & Soul Film Showing, The Labor Community Strategy Center, Upcoming Events, Voices from the Frontlines
Voices from the Frontlines & Strategy and Soul Theater presents 

The Old Oak

Directed by Ken Loach Written by Paul Laverty, Produced by Rebecca O’Brien

 Thursday April 11th at 6pm 

Strategy & Soul Theater
3546 Martin Luther King Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90008
We want to thank Emily Russo Co-President of Zeitgeist Films for making the connection between Eric and the Strategy Center team and Ken Loach and his film The Old Oak.
About the Film and filmmaker:

Ken Loach is a radical socialist, anti-war filmmaker. He’s now 87. According to him, this will be his last film. Ken also directed Sorry We Missed You a brilliant the brutality of the “gig economy” and rapid Amazon/UPS that Eric Mann reviewed on Voices from the Frontlines and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a film about the Irish war of independence against the British state which supported British absentee landlords.

The Old Oak is a Bar in a working class British town, which used to be home to a coal mine. The workers had a union which even fought the Thatcher regime. In the film, the mines have now shut down, creating a ghost town with low cost housing. The film follows Tommy Joe Ballantine (TJ) played by Dave Turner, the head bartender at the Old Oak and Yara a Syrian refugee played by Ebla Mari. The Old Oak becomes a hub for the older white mine workers as a once bustling community is going through a major transition. TJ is visibly depressed and the film shows the role that alcohol plays in a depressed, almost forgotten town. But because housing is so cheap, the town becomes a landing place for Syrian refugees.
The story is about the relationship between TJ and Yara in their fight to turn a racist town around? And there’s nothing in looking at these guys that makes you think they can. While Variety Magazine says: “Ken Loach’s drama Shines Light on working class British racism until it succumbs to a soft-hearted wish fulfillment”, and to my initial thoughts, the film, from the perspective of an organizer initially read as unpersuasive.
I further understood what the film is trying to do. It’s not “wish fulfillment”, the film is trying to show you the possibility of an alternate image. The film says that there’s a humanity between two people, between a bartender and A Syrian refugees as they become very good friends. TJ is going through a rough time in his life and Yara just found out that her father died I Bashar al-Assad’s brutal Syrian prisons. There’s great emotional chemistry between them. If you’re really a good organizer, you know that at the end of the day, it is all about dynamic relationships.
At the end of the film, there’s a beautiful seen of the British workers and Syrian refugees marching under the same banner. Now, billions of people believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Why can’t Ken Loach hope that the British working class can rise from the dead and find solidarity with Syrian refuges. And if that’s the point— that a working class white guy and a Syrian refugee woman can find a common humanity and turn the town around—exactly what’s the criticism?
It’s a beautiful film and you should come see it at Strategy and Soul Theater on April 11th 2024 at 6pm.
– Eric Mann