WHEN Clio Barnard was shooting a film about scrap metal dealers on a Bradford housing estate, she met people who made a lasting impression on her.

They inspired her to make another film - Ali & Ava, a contemporary love story spanning age, class, race and cultural divides. Shot in Bradford, largely at Holme Wood, it involved many local people, in cast and crew.

The film is due for release in February 2022 but Bradford has been 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 was greeted with rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival.

Written and directed by Bafta-nominated Clio Barnard, Ali & Ava is about a middle-aged woman from an Irish-Catholic background, matriarch to a large family, who meets a younger Asian man; a charismatic DJ struggling with the breakdown of his marriage. Both lonely, but kindhearted with a shared sense of fun and love of music, they tentatively start a relationship that doesn’t go down well with their families.

Ali is played by Bafta-winning actor Adeel Akhtar, star of Netflix hit Stranger Things, and playing Ava is Claire Rushbrook, whose work includes TV’s Black Mirror and Mike Leigh film Secrets and Lies. “We were made to feel so welcome in Bradford, in all communities,” said Claire. “It was a joy to work with local people, it made it a very special experience.”

Also in the cast is Bradford actress Natalie Gavin - who played Andrea Dunbar in Clio Barnard’s 2010 film The Arbor, about the Buttershaw writer - and Shaun Thomas, who made his film debut as an unknown Holme Wood schoolboy in Clio’s 2013 film The Selfish Giant, about two boys who start scrap dealing. Other youngsters and adults from Holme Wood also appear in Ali & Ava, and graduates from the University of Bradford worked with the crew. The film was shot in 2019, and during lockdown local people helped with sound recordings when the production team was unable to travel north. Locations include Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford Cathedral grounds, Laisterdyke, Tong and the city’s Waterstones bookstore.

At the premiere, Otley-born Clio said: “I came here in 2008 to make The Arbor and it was because of Andrea Dunbar that I grew to love Bradford. The man who is the inspiration for Ali was in The Arbor.

“I grew up not far from here and I wanted to make a film that celebrates the city and its inhabitants. I hope this film is a positive representation of the city that I’ve grown to love.”

Producer Tracy O’Riordan added: “This film could only have been made and shot in Bradford. It’s a love story to Bradford.”

Produced by Moonspun Films, Ali & Ava is financed by BBC Films, BFI and Screen Yorkshire. Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: "This investment ensures that films like Ali & Ava are made here in Yorkshire - recognised as one of the most important areas for film-making outside London - with local talent. We have the skills, knowledge, creative talent to rival anywhere in the country and it's important to build on that and make Yorkshire the heart of creative industries.

“Community is at the heart of film-making, and at the heart of this film, made here in Bradford. It’s a beautiful story, full of warmth and compassion, and captures the mood of this multi-cultural city.

Bradford City of Film worked closely with Clio on Ali & Ava. City of Film director David Wilson said: “This is a very Bradford film and was supported all the way by the Bradford Film Office. Even before production started we provided space for Clio to do script read-throughs. We helped to find a range of locations across the district and secure production offices in Little Germany. We worked with Incommunities and residents in Holme Wood, where a house was used for filming.

“Bradford should be very proud of the films of Clio Barnard, which are so well regarded at film festivals worldwide. The Selfish Giant was the first feature film supported by the Bradford Film Office back in 2013 and we’re immensely proud to be associated with Clio and the rest of the crews who support these brilliant films. Authenticity is at the heart of all Clio’s work. She knows the city well - we need more local voices like hers.”

Clio’s debut film, The Arbor, was a drama-documentary blending interviews with Andrea Dunbar’s family with scenes shot on Buttershaw estate. It saw Clio nominated for Bafta's Outstanding Debut. Her next film, The Selfish Giant, shot in Odsal and Buttershaw, won British Film of the Year at London Critics Circle. Clio’s third film, Dark River, starring Ruth Wilson and Sean Bean, was shot around Skipton.