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Oranges and Sunshine

November 2010

After Robin Hood brought a Notts hero to the big screen comes Oranges and Sunshine, the true story of Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys who uncovered the child migrant scandal.

OF course he was worried what she’d think of it.
“I was pretty nervous, yes,” admits Jim Loach, director of Oranges and Sunshine.
“I showed Margaret various drafts of the script and we spoke throughout the whole process. She had ideas which we tried to incorporate but I was pretty nervous at that moment she sat down to watch it.”
Did she like it?
“I think she felt favourable towards it,” he says, cautiously.
“But I wouldn’t dare to speak for Margaret,” he adds laughing.
“I think she’s very comfortable with it.”
The £3m film, which is due out in March, tells the story of how Margaret Humphreys, a West Bridgford social worker, helped uncover Britain’s child migrant scandal, when thousands of children in care were deported to Australia.
The film, co-financed by local screen agency EM Media, was shot in and around Nottingham earlier this year.
“We were in Nottingham for six weeks in all, four in pre-production and two filming around the city,” says Loach, son of legendary British film director Ken.
“We really loved Nottingham and enjoyed our time there. We found it a very cinematic place to film. A lot of the crew were Australian and they said they really enjoyed the city. So I’d love to work in Nottingham again. I found it a brilliant place to work.”
Locations included Carlton, Lenton, the Council House, County Hall and Sneinton.
“We used the Carlton location as the exterior of Margaret’s home. I really liked Carlton because you some lovely perspectives there across the valley.”
He adds: “Nottingham is mentioned by name a lot in the film.”
It was Loach’s vision to make the film after reading Margaret Humphreys’ account of the scandal.
“I found it a fascinating story, an amazing story. I went to see Margaret up in Nottingham and at first we just talked about what we could do with it, how we could approach it.
“She wanted to be convinced of our approach, that it wasn’t simply something that revisited the migrants’ pain without sufficiently telling the story.”
He adds: “It stayed as an idea for several years.”
Loach continued to direct for television, including episodes of Hotel Babylon, Casualty, Shameless, Waterloo Road and Bad Girls but kept in touch with Margaret.
“We really warmed to each other,” he says.
Loach credits scriptwriter Rona Munro with “unlocking” the story, helping turn it from an idea in to a drama.
“It’s a very complex story and there are many ways of tackling it. The question was always how to do that to tell the story and explore the issues - but without making an issue film.”
Emily Watson stars as Margaret Humphreys alongside Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.
“Emily was top of the list,” he says of the actress, who has appeared on the big screen in Angela's Ashes, Gosford Park and Red Dragon.
“She shares many qualities with Margaret,” says Loach.
“She’s very strong and has a huge amount of empathy.”
He met a number of former child migrants while researching the film.
“Some of them gave rise to particular characters in the film. They’re an amazing bunch. I found them incredibly dignified and very strong - and very funny a lot of the time.”
Having a famous film director for a father had some baring on the film, he says.
“When I first came across the story we spoke about it. And we spoke about it during the process of making it, so I had a lot of advice and help.”
But it wasn’t a factor in Margaret deciding that Loach was the right man to make it.
“Margaret and I didn’t even speak about my dad,” he says.
“I can honestly say it never entered in to the equation.”
Oranges and Sunshine is Loach’s feature film debut and he’s hoping the reaction to it will prompt offers for many more.
“Rona and I are working on a script set in Glasgow and we’re hoping to tackle that next.”
Is he likely to be the sort of director who, like his dad, portrays the reality of British life?
“I think it’s part of my DNA really,” he laughs.
“It has to be a story worth telling, a film with something to say. I don’t think I’d get away with an all-action romp to watch over Christmas dinner.”
Oranges and Sunshine has already been screened at film festivals in Korea and Rome. What about a regional premiere in Nottingham?
“We’ll definitely come and show the film in Nottingham in the new year,” he says.
Should we be prepared for a tear-jerker?
“It’s difficult for me to answer that,” he laughs.
“I’ll just say it’s an incredible engaging story about an immensely engaging and fascinating person.”

Oranges and Sunshine goes on general release in March.

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