Directed by Ken Loach (1969, rated PG-13, 111 minutes)
The following film notes have been written by the artist George Shaw:
Based on Barry Hines’s novel Destrel to a Knave, Ken Loach’s film is one of great beauty and tenderness. Set in an economically depressed mining community of northern England, it tells the story of Billy Caspar, who finds hope when he adopts a kestrel. He escapes the gloom of home, the brutality of schooling, and the hardships of the town when he trains his bird on the hillsides and in the edgelands. Filmed in the mining town of Barnsley, the cast is made up of local people with local accents and dialect. Kes is very much “about ordinary people and their lives,” as Loach believed filmmaking should be.
Most of my generation studied the book Kes at school and watched the film. Its portrayal of school life and the boredom and casual abuses of childhood was like watching a documentary. My rather old-fashioned copy of Halliwell’s Film Guide curiously describes Kes as “full of the kind of merit that does not equate with entertainment. Hard to take and harder to hear.”
This screening is part of the artist’s film series Films of Innocence and Experience, with titles selected by George Shaw. All screenings are free and, unless otherwise noted, take place in the Center’s Lecture Hall. Seating is limited.
Film was an important part of my childhood years and continues to be an influence in how I see the world. Films have had an influence in nearly every one of my paintings. For this series, I have selected films from a range of genres, including the kitchen sink tradition of the sixties through to science fiction, crime, horror, and comedy. For me, they present a picture of Britain that is almost autobiographical, and I see in them a landscape that is so familiar, so angry, so disturbing, so eerie, and so funny that it can only be the Britain in which I grew up.
The title of the series is a nod to William Blake’s illustrated book of poetry Songs of Innocence and Experience, which I had the pleasure of viewing during my last trip to the Center. When I was asked to select some of my favorite films to complement the exhibition, I found that many of the themes in the films I chose echoed those within Blake’s poetry: Innocence falling into experience at the hands of the state, of religion, of industry, of economics, of the abuses of power, and of our own fears and anxieties as life slips by.