The biggest cinematic surprise of the past 12 months was Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – a hard-hitting drama about a widowed woodworker which became a social movement, inspiring real-life protests and provoking political debates in the UK’s House of Commons.
And in the title role it catapulted Dave Johns – a stand-up comedian who had never acted in a film before – to billboards and red carpets the world over.
A stand-up comedian who happens to have been something of a regular on The Laughter Factory, appearing on our GCC comedy tours at least five times in the past 15 years.
With I, Daniel Blake finally getting a full UAE release, Johns took time out to recall his repeated visits to the emirates.
“I’ve been in Dubai a good few times doing stand-up with The Laughter Factory,” said the unlikely stage veteran.
“The first time I came out here must have been 2002, I’ve been out about five or six times over the years. They’re good gigs – expat gigs are different to gigs at home.
“I loved going to Abu Dhabi and Bahrain too – they’re usually all good gigs.”
I, Daniel Blake has received the highest cinematic honours, winning the prestigious Palme d’Or following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and was named Best British Film at the BAFTA Film Awards 2017.
The film will receive its long-delayed, well-deserved UAE release on April 20, opening the programme of DIFF365, a new year-round series of edgy, uncut modern cinema presented by the Dubai International Film Festival at Mall of the Emirates.
Johns plays the eponymous Daniel Blake, a Newcastle widower who is advised not to return to work following a heart attack, but is unable to obtain benefits from the authorities because of bureaucratic inadequacies.
Thankfully, Johns says a quarter-century of successful stand-up has kept him from having to sign on for decades.
“I’ve been very, very lucky – I’ve been a stand-up comic for 27 years and I’ve always worked,” he said. “The last time I signed on was the late ’70s, and back then it was a different thing altogether.”