The Old Oak: Touching film about Syrian refugees resettling in England on Bafta longlist

Ken Loach's social drama is set in a former mining town in the north-east

Ebla Mari and Dave Turner in The Old Oak. Photo: Sixteen Films
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Ken Loach's film about Syrian refugees trying to integrate into a former English mining town is in the running for a Bafta.

The Old Oak, which is on the longlist for Outstanding British Film, centres on pub landlord TJ (Dave Turner), who strikes up a friendship with Syrian refugee Yara (Ebla Mari). Yara's family are among many new settlers in his neglected village in the north-east.

As tensions rise between the locals and new arrivals, TJ and Yara attempt to find a common ground for both communities to live in peace and thrive.

With The Old Oak, Loach, who is known for his socially critical films including the Palme d'Or winners The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) and I, Daniel Blake (2016), completes a trilogy of films set in north-east England.

While I, Daniel Blake shone a spotlight on benefits sanctions and the desperation fuelling the expansion of food banks, Sorry We Missed You (2019) highlighted the impact of the gig economy and its effect on workers’ rights.

“We felt we needed to tell a third story, centred in the old mining communities,” Loach, 87, told Big Issue magazine last year.

“Because the whole area was coal mining, shipbuilding and steel, and all the old industry is gone. So what are the consequences for ordinary people?"

The Old Oak is infused with hope, he said.

“It’s about the struggle of hope to emerge, and the struggle of people to see hope,” he added.

“We couldn’t be in a more disastrous situation with civil society collapsing around us, health, education, homelessness, housing, student debt, poverty and hunger used as a weapon, transport collapsing.

“Every aspect of our life is collapsing, with the added danger from climate disaster. So, where you find hope in all that is the big question."

The Baftas longlist is the result of the first round of voting across all categories, with final nominations to be revealed on January 18. The awards ceremony is set to take place on February 18 in London.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 1:04 PM