Fall 2018


British Social Realism: Films by Terence Davies, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach (55+)

British film directors Terence Davies, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach enjoy international reputations and are revered by audiences around the world. Alongside the gritty social realism of their films is a streak of humour that is uniquely British.

Our initial challenge in this course will be to define social realism and its various applications. After a brief survey of its manifestation in novels, theatre and film, we’ll quickly narrow the focus to recent U.K. cinema, viewing six films by the directors that are landmarks in U.K. film history. So that we can analyze the films and their relationship to social realism, the classes will be organized around group discussion. You will be encouraged to form your own opinions.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Robert Ingram $200.00 128 Register

What will I learn?

Week 1: Terence Davies, Of Time and the City (74 m.) 2008

Commissioned by the City of Liverpool to celebrate its selection as European City of Culture, Davies’ documentary is a powerful blend of archival footage, film excerpts and sequences shot by Davies himself. Poetry, music (from the Beatles and Peggy Lee to Lizst and Mahler) and art combine to evoke the social history of the city.

Week 2: Terence Davies, Distant Voices, Still Lives (85m.) 1988

Described by The Guardian as "Britain's forgotten cinematic masterpiece", Davies’ drama was ranked third in a 2011 Time Out poll of the 100 Greatest British films. The film was made in two parts, filmed two years apart by the same cast, and depicts a working class Catholic family evolving from a pessimistic to a more optimistic outlook. Popular culture is at the heart of the film and embraces popular music, Hollywood cinema, light entertainment and the local pub.

Week 3: Mike Leigh, High Hopes (112 m.) 1988

One of Leigh’s most successful analyses of the British working class, High Hopes portrays the life of an extended working-class family living in different parts of London. Playing on familiar Leigh themes, this is a comedy evoking the culture clashes between different classes and belief systems.

Week 4: Mike Leigh, Vera Drake (125m.) 2004

Leigh tells the story of Vera Drake, a married woman living in 1950s London. Her main function in life is to help women seeking an abortion, which at that time was an illegal procedure. On release, the film met great critical acclaim and won many awards and nominations. Leigh evokes the hard life of a British working-class woman and the environment in which she lives and works, and combines this with a moral perspective on abortion.

Week 5: Ken Loach, Kes (111m.) 1969

One of social realism’s most successful films, Kes made an immediate impact on its release in the UK. Set in Barnsley (South Yorkshire), the film depicts life in a small mining village where the miners were allegedly the lowest paid workers in a developed country.

Week 6: Ken Loach, I, Daniel Blake (100m.) 2016

An emotionally charged analysis of the vagaries of the UK’s welfare system, the film presents the life of Daniel Blake who, made redundant through illness, struggles to claim benefits. He befriends a young woman who is in a similar position. Such is the social and political relevance of the film that it was mentioned in debate in the Houses of Parliament.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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