In advance of the ‘Precarious lives: inequalities in health through the lens of the filmmaker’ event on 30th November at St John’s College, presenters Robert Gordon and Gordon Harold from the University of Cambridge provide a brief overview of their presentations and their reasons for taking part in this discussion.

Robert Gordon:

After the second world war, a film movement emerged in Italy known as neorealism, propelled by a group of brilliant directors and writers including Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Vittorio de Sica. The neorealists saw film as a means to help reshape the post-war world, to engage with the profound challenges of remaking Italy and Europe out of the rubble and ruins of Fascism and the war. They understood that the medium of film had the power to capture something essential about the lived reality of the ordinary lives and to challenge the forces arrayed against them. Their work has become a touchstone for all socially and politically engaged cinema across the globe ever since. Ken Loach’s work is one powerful example that has taken on the legacy of neorealist filmmaking and adapted it for the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

When Ann Louise Kinmonth invited me to take part in this workshop on Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and to make connections back to de Sica’s 1948 classic Bicycle Thieves, I was delighted to accept. I hope to contribute by digging into the historical roots of this mode of filmmaking, by making connections to a wider European backdrop to the social issues of precarity and inequality, and by underscoring how film and culture more broadly can challenge and sometimes change the societies that produce it.

Gordon Harold: 

From as far back as the 1930s, researchers have highlighted the adverse impacts of household economic stress on the mental health of adults and children.

Mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, affecting 1:4 people across their lifespan. The estimated annual cost to the UK economy is greater than a £110 billion. The global cost by 2030 is expected to be greater than $16 trillion.

Among children and adolescents, more than 70% of serious mental health conditions develop before the age of 18 years, highlighting the potential of supporting mental health early in life to reduce its consequences across the life-course.

International research conducted over the past 50+ years has consistently highlighted the linked effects of household economic stress on adult mental ill health, poor inter-parental relationship quality, negative parent-child relationship dynamics and poor developmental outcomes for children and young people, including mental illness, academic failure, substance misuse, criminality, homelessness, unemployment and suicidality.

This presentation will review the very latest research in this area and will align to the core “lived experience” stories depicted in the social realism films The Bicycle Thieves and Sorry We Missed You. Links to policy opportunities will be highlighted and mechanisms to engage future policy impacts provided.

Register now for the ‘Precarious lives: inequalities in health through the lens of the filmmaker’ workshop.

You can find out more on our website St John’s Reading Group on Health Inequalities.



Tel: +44 1223 766886