Clio Bernard’s new romantic comedy starring Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook is tipped to capture the heart of Yorkshire. Shot and set in Bradford, this BAFTA-nominated film is said to embody the city’s sense of community, painting a vivid picture of what it’s like to be included in that community. Covering themes of fear, courage, loneliness and belonging, this love story is set to reach a wider audience with a nationwide release in cinemas on 4 March.
Ali & Ava
The story follows Ali (Adeel Akhtar) who is landlord to Ava (Claire Rushbrook). Ali is friendly with his tenants but when he meets Ava one rainy day, sparks begin to fly. Ali is in the wreckage of his first marriage and Ava lives with her son and his family, who may not be too approving of Ali. The story centres around whether they can overcome their initial problems and be together, or whether family pressures mean they swallow each other whole.
I had the privilege to talk to Shaun Thomas, who plays Callum, about director Clio Bernard’s fascination with Bradford and the inspiration for shooting here.
“Clio is inspired by Bradford itself, showing love for the place and its community. She always looks for authenticity in her specific locations, even asking some of the locals for places to shoot.”
This makes the film feel realistic and reflects well on the local community. With many films seeming disrespectful to the communities they are trying the portray, Ali & Ava seems to do the opposite.
Thomas said the film has been “taken on board very well by the Bradford community, a city that doesn’t get as much light as it should”. With a lot of the actors also being from Yorkshire, it shows the level of effort Bernard has put into capturing the Bradford community perfectly.
Plaudits for the Bradford-based film
The plaudits have come thick and fast. Bernard’s film is rated four stars by the Guardian and Caroline Cooper Charles, CEO of Screen Yorkshire, called it “a tender love story with Yorkshire at its heart”. However, the main selling point is how the film has captured the essence of Bradford and used that dynamic to create a unique contemporary love story.
It’s significant that the movie was filmed in Yorkshire, when over half of the UK’s film corporation is based in London. Arts Council England’s funding can be a barrier to local filmmakers, with a third of the money going straight to London. With the success of Ali & Ava and with the new Indiana Jones movie being filmed in North Yorkshire, it is hopeful that the county can attract more interest as a filming location in the future, along with further Arts Council funding.
Yorkshire as a cultural hub
There is already some interest in Yorkshire’s cultural facilities, with Wakefield Council supporting Tileyard North for their City of Culture 2025 bid (and continuing this support, even though they didn’t make the shortlist). Tileyard North will be a state-of-the-art production facility for the music industry. With Channel 4 also deciding to locate their new headquarters in Leeds, it seems like Yorkshire may be on the rise as a location for the UK’s multi-billion pound entertainment industry.
The hope is that by investing in quality infrastructure, this might go some way to meeting the objective of creating higher-paid jobs with high-quality facilities outside of London, meaning more people in Yorkshire can work towards a career in media.
This chimes nicely with Bernard’s vision, which is to create a social-realist version of Bradford abd Yorkshire in general:
“There’s a lot of kindness, generosity and support in Bradford and I wanted to see that writ large on the big screen.”