Land and Freedom ★★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

Like Beyond Rangoon, this is about a foreigner engaged in the struggle against oppression abroad. The big difference is that Loach understands that the Spanish Civil War is more important to his characters than their own well-being and designs the film to follow suit. David (Ian Hart) is only the conduit and correspondent, documenting his experience for his granddaughter to discover with his passing. He's not a bold leader, just a man with ideals that have yet to be compromised. He's left on the sidelines during group meetings, often relying on translation to follow the contentious disputes. These scenes have a incredible verisimilitude rare in films about activism. They're filled with people we've never seen before talking over each other, getting sidetracked, and disagreeing passionately about how to achieve socialist reform. This is Loach at his least didactic, detailing the ways causes become appropriated and individuals disillusioned.