Below first-time feature filmmaker Jim Loach (son of Ken Loach) shares an exclusive scene from “Oranges and Sunshine,” his drama starring Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving. The film opens in limited release Friday, October 21.
“Oranges and Sunshine” tells the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham, who uncovered one of the most significant social scandals in recent times: the organized deportation of children in care from the United Kingdom to Australia. Almost single-handedly, against overwhelming odds and with little regard for her own well-being, Margaret reunited thousands of families, brought authorities to account and worldwide attention to an extraordinary miscarriage of justice. [Synopses courtesy of Sixteen Films]
This scene is based on something that happened with the real person on who the movie is based, Margaret Humphreys. She’d gone to Australia House in London quite early on, to try and find out if what she’d heard was true: that children who were being looked after in state care in the UK, had been told their parents were dead and been deported to Australia, where they were placed in often extremely oppressive childrens’ homes. In real life, Margaret had been blocked – the man she’d met hadn’t helped her at all. So Rona Munro, who wrote the script, came up with this scene.
Emily Watson arrives in it with loads of questions, questions that the audience have too. Were all these children really sent away? Why? Who sent them? Her questions are not really answered in this scene, except that the man she meets inadvertently confirms that her hunch is correct – these kids were sent away. The character arrives skeptical, and leaves incredulous. From there Emily keeps on digging – she’s like a detective – and the whole shocking scandal unravels. So it’s a key scene in the film – a jumping off point, if you like.
I think we shot the interior part quite early on, and half way through Emily said, “Oh god I should have had a notebook in this scene to write notes” – and she was dead right. Luckily we’d only done the shots looking at her back, so the production designer lent hers, and we put it in for the reverse – that’s why Emily holds it right in front of her. We shot the exterior first thing on a Sunday morning in London – we wanted the flags out and the Australian Embassy told us they’d had to refer our request all the way to the top of government in Canberra ! We’d been told they only put them out on state occasions, and certainly not for films. But when we turned up to shoot, there they were – I think the guy said there was a last minute change of heart. It was a tricky shot as we had to hold the traffic, as the movie is set in 1986; that’s not a popular move in central London. What you see is just about the only angle that doesn’t reveal modern buildings that weren’t there in the late eighties. Then when we did this take, we had all this traffic backed up, there were buses and taxis all going on separate cues, the sun was just right for us…and a woman jogged right thought the middle of the shot. I was kind of tearing my hair out, but she didn’t see the camera, and I quite liked it, so we went with it.