Carla's Song: Talking to Ken Loach

By Ken Loach

dir. Ken Loach
Prod. Sally Hibbin
Written. Paul Laverty

Why make this film in Nicaragua? It happened because Paul got in touch and we met and he told me about his time there. And of all the things that have happened in the last decade or so, it’s one of the clearest examples that shows how the US has no commitment to democracy whatsoever. It’s a poor, small country which, by the most democratic means, carried out policies on behalf of their people, to improve their way of life and make them good democrats, and when they did that, the most powerful nation on earth sponsored the most awful atrocities against them. So if you know that story you know that North America is implacably opposed to democracy, and I suppose that’s why I wanted the Nicaraguans’ story to be told.

I think what surprised me, going to Nicaragua, was people’s capacity to retain their sense of humanity in the face of the appalling atrocities they’ve suffered; and their tolerance; and their capacity to welcome strangers. That was surprising because when people have been through a trauma like that, you subconsciously expect them to show more symptoms.

What was encouraging was that a lot of people still seemed to have the capacity to want to fight back. The received wisdom before we went (and from one or two people in Managua as well) was that it’s all over. But particularly outside Managua we found people who were not prepared to make that adjustment at all.

One thing – not unexpected but it was still quite shocking – is that there were a lot of guys who had been involved in the struggle against Somoza and had fought with the Sandinistas, and were then being forced to eat humble pie, and that was very hard to take. It’s inconceivable that there isn’t a great deal of anger about that, but it’s not apparent in the way people speak to you.

One of the things I’ve always thought – and it’s true in relation to Ireland and what the British have done there – is that there can’t be peace until people acknowledge what they’ve done. In Ireland the people who will never acknowledge what they’ve done are the British – they demand that everyone apologises but maintain that their own hands are clean – but there has to be justice before there can be peace. People in Nicaragua seem to be making an enormous bid for there to be peace before there’s been justice, and I wonder whether that’s really viable. My emotional gut reaction is that it isn’t, but people seem to be making an awful lot of effort not to forgive, but to accept, in order to live peacefully. In a way I found that quite disturbing, because I wanted them to express to me – perhaps I’m being naive – the anger that I was feeling on their behalf.