Cannes 2014: ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ preview

Whether or not it turns out to be Ken Loach’s final narrative film, Jimmy’s Hall (2014) looks like being a favourite when it lands on the Croisette in competition at this year’s 67th Cannes Film Festival. Cannes has commonly been a home from home for British director Loach where – despite the glam, the frocks and the yachts – this master of social realist and politically committed cinema has consistently scored successes. He’s taken the Jury Prize on three different occasions with Hidden Agenda in 1990, Raining Stones in 1993 and The Angels’ Share in 2012. In 2006, Loach even took the prestigious Palme d’Or for his brilliantly stirring portrayal of early twentieth century Irish history in The Wind that Shakes the Barley. With Jimmy’s Hall, the director returns to similar territory – here’s the film’s official synopsis.

In 1921, Jimmy Gralton’s sin was to build a dance hall on a rural crossroads in an Ireland on the brink of Civil War. The Pearse-Connolly Hall was a place where young people could come to learn, to argue, to dream, but above all to dance and have fun. As the hall grew in popularity its socialist and free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close. A decade later, at the height of the Depression, Jimmy returns to Co. Leitrim from the US to look after his mother and vows to live the quiet life. The hall stands abandoned and empty, and despite the pleas of the local youngsters, remains shut. However, as Jimmy reintegrates into the community and sees the poverty and growing cultural oppression, the activist within him is stirred.

Based on a true story, adapted from a play by regular creative collaborator Paul Laverty (who also wrote the Palme d’Or-winning The Wind that Shakes the Barley) and starring Simone Kirby, Jim Norton, Andrew Scott and Barry Ward, Loach’s latest Cannes contender has all the hallmarks of a British festival hit: a period setting, a political conscience and all things Irish. A victory with Jimmy’s Hall would also come with the added bonus of crowning what has been a remarkable and justly celebrated filmmaking career by one of our finest cinematic exports.

Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival ahead of a UK cinema release on 30 May 2014.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale