There are so many unsung heroes, in our history and our present, in the day to day struggle against tyranny and injustice yet Ken Loach has uncovered another one for us in his latest film, Jimmy’s Hall.
The film is set in Ireland in 1932/33 and it tells of Jimmy Gralton, an Irish man who was hunted and deported from his village for setting up a community hall in County Leitrim. Jimmy has returned to his home town after years of political exile in New York. He is encouraged to re-open the old community hall.
Under Jimmy’s tutelage the hall really serves the community, providing a place for discussion, education, music and dance and social events that reflect the range and vitality of the locals. Yet such a simple idea could not be tolerated. Gralton was a socialist and the hall was considered to be spreading rebellion against the church and the state and undermining their authority.
The script and acting wonderfully encapsulate the dialogue of life, change and resistance. It is neither clunky nor belaboured but conveys with warmth, humour and sparkle the everyday problems and the role of Jimmy’s hall. In reality it was not Jimmy’s hall but everyone’s and that is what frightened the bigots and those in power the most: an idea that could take over and sweep them into oblivion. A place where all could freely discuss, engage with one another and choose their own entertainment and education at a time of massive unemployment.
A little singing and dancing? Yes but so much more.