Reported by Alistair Shand on the 20th April 2022
A KEIGHLEY filmmaker aims to highlight the plight of “forgotten about” marginalised communities with her directorial debut.
Louisa Rose Mackleston also wants to shine a light on voices from the north of England following the success of Ruth & Safiya. The 15-minute film is set in Bradford and tells the story of an “unlikely friendship” between Ruth – an isolated pensioner in her 80s – and Safiya, a teenage refugee from Syria who is struggling to adapt to her new life. Filmed in Skipton, Ruth & Safiya has been screened as far away as South Korea, and has been praised for its storytelling – despite only being produced on a small budget. “It is an intrinsically Bradford story – it showcases the diverse range of people here,” said Louisa, 26. “Both Ruth and Safiya are from marginalised communities – Ruth is elderly and Safiya is a refugee. “I’m passionate about showing different age ranges and ethnicities on screen and representing Bradford.”
Louisa runs production company Northern Fortress, which aims to nurture the next generation of filmmakers from the north. “The north and Bradford often get overshadowed,” she said. “That’s why the 2025 City of Culture bid is so exciting, as Bradford is taking back control of how we want to be portrayed. “It will help push back on the London-centric way that film and TV operates.” Ruth & Safiya was Louisa’s first “big” directing job, and she said she is proud of herself for overcoming challenges.
“I have a disability, a chronic pain condition, so when trying to plan I was also on an 18-month-long waiting list for surgery,” she said. “It was challenging, but I can’t complain – we got a lovely shoot at the end of it.” Louisa criticised the way refugees from places like Syria have been portrayed. “I think the war in Syria has been forgotten by the mainstream,” she said. “I wanted to humanise refugees through this film. These are people who come here under really dangerous conditions.
“If you look at how Ukrainian refugees have been portrayed, versus refugees from the Middle East, it’s very different. “There’s a double standard there.” Through the Young Changemaker Fellowship programme, Louisa is now going to Yamagata, Japan, after being commissioned to make a documentary about the city, comparing it to Bradford. The project has been facilitated by David Wilson, the director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film.