British director Ken Loach said Friday he hoped his new film “Ae Fond Kiss” shed light on how religious pressures can hamper the assimilation of immigrants.
The film, which got a rousing reception at its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, is about the Muslim son of devout Pakistani immigrants in Scotland who falls in love with an Irish Catholic teacher.
Defying his family’s plans for an arranged marriage with a cousin he has never met, the slick and successful Glasgow disc-jockey Casim moves in with the music teacher, causing her to lose her job at a Catholic secondary school.
The two try to ward off the family pressures and myriad prejudices but the inexorable clash of cultures and bigots lurking around the corner seemingly doom the couple’s chances.
“We have to be much more critical of religion and especially fundamentalism,” Loach said after basking in more applause at a news conference. “We have to challenge religious doctrine.”
Loach said he wanted not only to expose the nefarious pressures immigrant families apply to their children but also the way the church also interferes in people’s lives.
“The process of assimilation will happen,” he said. “The stages along the road can be full of pain. We tried to show it from everyone’s different perspective.”
Muslims ‘demonized’Screenwriter Paul Laverty, who borrowed the title from a Robert Burns film, said the idea for a film about intolerance came after some Americans were involved in wanton beatings of Muslims in the United States after the September 11 attacks.
“The way Muslims were demonized after September 11 just wouldn’t leave my mind,” he said.
The film’s stars are Dublin-born actress Eva Birthistle and first-time actor Atta Yaqub, who puts in a superb performance with a genuine Glasgow accent.
They were all challenged by Loach’s unusual style of directing — he did not give actors the scripts for their scenes until just before the day’s shooting and sometimes kept them in the dark on what would happen next until cameras rolled.
“It kept me on my toes,” said Birthistle. “It’s as close to real life as you can get, never knowing what’s around the corner.”