WHEN Clio Barnard was making a film about the junkyard in a Bradford housing estate, she met people who left a lasting impression on her.
They inspired her to make another film – Ali & Ava, a contemporary love story spanning age, class, race and cultural divisions. Shot in Bradford, largely in Holme Wood, it involved many local people, in the cast and crew.
The film is slated for release in February 2022, but Bradford was treated to a northern premiere. Taking place at the National Science and Media Museum, it followed the national premiere; a highlight of the BFI London Film Festival 2021. In July, the film received rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival.
Written and directed by Bafta nominee Clio Barnard, Ali & Ava is about a middle-aged woman of Irish-Catholic descent, matriarch of a large family, who meets a younger Asian man; a charismatic DJ struggling with the breakdown of his marriage. Both lonely, yet caring with a common sense of fun and love of music, they tentatively begin a relationship that is not going well with their families.
Ali is played by Bafta Award-winning actor Adeel Akhtar, star of the Netflix hit Stranger Things, and as Ava, Claire Rushbrook, whose work includes Black Mirror and Mike Leigh’s film Secrets and Lies. âWe have felt so welcomed in Bradford, in all communities,â said Claire. âIt was a joy to work with the local people, it made it a very special experience.
Bradford actress Natalie Gavin – who played Andrea Dunbar in Clio Barnard’s 2010 film The Arbor, about writer Buttershaw – and Shaun Thomas, who made his film debut as a schoolboy unknown to Holme Wood in the 2013 Clio film The Selfish Giant, is also part of the cast. about two boys who start selling scrap metal. Other Holme Wood youth and adults also appear in Ali & Ava, and University of Bradford graduates have worked with the team. The film was shot in 2019 and during the lockdown, locals helped with sound recordings when the production team was unable to make it north. Locations include Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford Cathedral Grounds, Laisterdyke, Tong and the town’s Waterstones Bookstore.
At the premiere, Otley-born Clio said: âI came here in 2008 to do The Arbor and it was thanks to Andrea Dunbar that I came to love Bradford. The man who inspired Ali was in The Arbor.
âI grew up not far from here and wanted to make a film that celebrates the city and its people. I hope this film is a positive portrayal of the city that I have grown to love.
Producer Tracy O’Riordan added, âThis film could only have been made and shot in Bradford. It’s a love story for Bradford.
Produced by Moonspun Films, Ali & Ava is funded by BBC Films, BFI and Screen Yorkshire. Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: âThis investment ensures that films like Ali & Ava are made here in Yorkshire – recognized as one of the most important areas for filmmaking outside of London – with local talent. We have the skills, knowledge, creative talents to compete across the country and it’s important to build on that and make Yorkshire the heart of the creative industries.
âCommunity is at the heart of making a film, and at the heart of this film, made here in Bradford. It’s a beautiful story, full of warmth and compassion, and one that captures the vibe of this multicultural city.
Bradford City of Film worked closely with Clio on Ali & Ava. City of Film director David Wilson said: âThis is a very Bradford film and has been backed to the end by the Bradford Film Office. Even before production started, we provided space for Clio to do script reads. We have helped find a range of locations in the district and secure production offices in Little Germany. We worked with the Incommunities and the residents of Holme Wood, where a house was used for filming.
âBradford should be very proud of Clio Barnard’s films, which are so well seen at film festivals around the world. The Selfish Giant was the first feature film backed by the Bradford Film Office in 2013 and we are extremely proud to be associated with Clio and the rest of the teams that support these brilliant films. Authenticity is at the heart of all of Clio’s work. She knows the city well – we need more local voices like hers.
Clio’s first film, The Arbor, was a documentary drama mixing interviews with Andrea Dunbar’s family with scenes shot in Buttershaw’s estate. He saw Clio nominated for Bafta’s Outstanding Debut. His next film, The Selfish Giant, shot in Odsal and Buttershaw, won the British Film of the Year award at the London Critics Circle. Clio’s third film, Dark River, starring Ruth Wilson and Sean Bean, was filmed around Skipton.