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U.K., 2013
Directed by Ken Loach
With Eileen Thompson, Julian Tudor Hart, Dai Walters
Approx. 94 mins. DCP

William Blake’s reference to “these dark Satanic Mills” ends with an exhortation to “build Jerusalem in England’s green & pleasant land.” Ken Loach features these words in his powerful, unabashedly pro-socialist documentary of England’s postwar transformation from a working-class hellscape in the 1930s. Endemic poverty and Dickensian squalor (children sleeping five to a vermin-infested bed, with only cereal to eat) are upended by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour Party landslide over the patrician Winston Churchill. What follows is the nationalization of the mines, railways, and postal service. Most significantly, the jewel in the crown is the National Health Service, which made medical care free of charge. Every story needs a good villain, and Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 election does the trick. Loach masterfully collages first-person accounts of prewar England with archival footage that exposes the disparity between everyday reality and the myth of the Greatest Empire on Earth.

With support from The Richard Brick, Geri Ashur, and Sara Bershtel Fund for Social Justice Documentaries


“A terrific movie…giving us details about a specific period of history in a specific country that commercial films and TV platforms won't touch…so compelling in its account of the immediate pre- and postwar eras. THE SPIRIT OF ‘45 will be particularly fascinating to anyone who's followed Loach's career as a dramatic filmmaker with a socialist vision.”

“With a trenchant blend of experts, first-person testimonies, and ample archival materials, the movie shows how the collective postwar energy catalyzed a collaborative spirit in British society embodied by the Labour Party — and why it eventually fell apart.”
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“Rousing… a compelling mix of interviews, old and new, with archival footage. The film works all at once as a lament, a celebration and a wake-up call to modern politicians and voters.”
– Dave Calhoun, Time Out

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