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The Navigators dramatises the events of 1995 in South Yorkshire, when the lives of a tight-knit group of railway workers - Gerry (Venn Tracey), John (Dean Andrews), Mick (Thomas Craig), Paul (Joe Duttine), Jim (Steve Huison) and Len (Andy Swallow) - were thrown into chaos when their supervisor Harpic (Sean Glenn) tells them they no longer work for public company British Rail but corporate giant East Midland Infrastructure. The men are given no choice but to accept tough new work practises and contracts. Cost cutting takes precedence over the welfare of employees, not to mention rail safety. As their understanding of privatisation sinks in, their camaraderie disintegrates. The difficult new conditions soon lead to tragedy.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As a socially alert, political film itís unabashed propaganda (for example, the company suits are hardly seen and never humanised) and a bit of a one note samba, making it a tad repetitious. We hardly see the workers working but we hear all about their working conditions. We see inside some of their private lives, and see how badly they are affected, which is is the whole point of the film Ė the negative effect on individuals of the stateís policy. Itís heartfelt and sad; they are made into liars and cheats. But as comedy and drama, the film is full on, if not full monty. Wonderful performances keep us involved and engaged, the script sparkles with humour and humanity and the tension of the subject matter provides the grit. Brilliant scenes of ensemble performances with complex drama lines make the film truly compelling. Itís often very funny with its zesty, working class English character-driven humour. As naturalistic as a well made tv show, The Navigators collects small incidents that either reveal the camaraderie or the misfortune of the workers whose safe jobs as state rail employees is suddenly distablised by privatisation. The evils of privatisation are caricatured with great emphasis. Loach isnít interested in a polite discussion about the pros and cons of it all. He wants to make a film that hits us in the guts. So when near the end, the story comes down to the drama of a manís life at stake and the men have to make a choice based on their future work prospects, we feel a little uneasy that perhaps weíve been politically manipulated. The drama itself is justified and offers a powerful end shot to the film.†

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
"Sardines on toast with pickle? F***ing lovely!" Such is the delicious local flavour of this very English docu-drama. It's also one of the few pleasures enjoyed by one of the honest - yet none too bright - British Rail workers after their company was privatised in 1995. Ken Loach is a master of kitchen-sink dramas where the struggles of the working class are experienced through the lives of a few. The Navigators, while far from Loach's best work, is compelling. It's almost painful to watch these hapless schmos fall into the trappings of privatisation, as their permanent jobs are replaced with contract work and their company is splintered into small units competing for the lowest bid. Just listen to Harpic's new rule, which he dutifully reads to his rowdy workers: "Right, now listen you lot, this is really important. Deaths must be kept to an acceptable level." "What's an acceptable level"? Gerry asks. "Two per year," Harpic replies. "But nobody's been killed for the past eighteen months," Gerry says. "Any volunteers?" Jim quips. There aren't. Nor are any "voluntary redundancies" accepted. The switch from public to private quickly becomes very personal in the lives of these little people. It means less work, less money, and unsafe working conditions. For the company, on the other hand, it means poor service and big profits. The Navigators was written by Rob Dawber, a former railway contract worker who passed away shortly before the film's release. He would have been proud of Loach's poignant dramatisation, which customarily carries a strong political message. You can understand how all those horrific rail disasters in Britain happen. I would have liked to have seen a bit more about the lack of work impacting on the personal lives of these British battlers, but the film is just tender enough to make us care about each and every one of them. The Navigators is a gritty, grimy film that travels at the pace of Thomas the Tank engine, but the ride is well worth the ticket.

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CAST: Dean Andrews, Tom Craig, Joe Duttine, Steve Huison, Venn Tracey, Charlie Brown

PRODUCER: Rebecca OíBrien


SCRIPT: Rob Dawber

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Ackroyd, Mike Eley

EDITOR: Jonathan Morris

MUSIC: George Fenton


RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: August 8, 2002; Melbourne: August 15, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: January 16, 2003

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