Ken Loach and the Save the Children Film: Humanitarianism, Imperialism, and the Changing Role of Charity in Postward Britain
357 - 394
The Journal of Modern History
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This article offers a critical assessment of British humanitarianism using a case study of the first fifty years of one of its largest charities, the Save the Children Fund ðSCFÞ. It is an exercise the organization was once keen to conduct itself. In the run-up to its fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1969, SCF decided to commission a film. Very much the “establishment” charity of the humanitarian sector, it nevertheless made a surprising decision to approach the avowedly left-wing, social realist filmmaker Ken Loach, who at that time was arguably reaching his creative peak (his most well-known film, Kes, was made in the same year). SCF did not want a film that simply celebrated the achievements of the organization over the years. It wanted a controversial documentary to be shown on national television that would highlight the problems of poverty in both Britain and the developing world and that would go on to showcase the work of SCF in alleviating suffering. Ideally, it sought to stamp on the public consciousness an association between film and charity like the one created when Loach’s Cathy Come Home (aired as a BBC Wednesday Play on November 16, 1966) was followed by the launch of the homelessness organization Shelter two weeks later.
- History