The award-winning film on drug addiction that showed Harrogate to itself

The neighbourhood crowd who handed Lewis Robinson the Audience Choice Award at his local film festival had little idea of how close to home his production really was.

Lewis Robinson outside the Everyman Cinema, Harrogate. Picture by Simon Hulme
Lewis Robinson outside the Everyman Cinema, Harrogate. Picture by Simon Hulme

Set and shot in Harrogate, partly in the house he grew up in, it opened a can of worms on a social issue not always appreciated there.

Robinson is only 22 but his uncompromising choice of subject has already made him a multi award-winner. His first production, a student film called Forgotten, was inspired by his step-grandmother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and was honoured at two international festivals.

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But it was the reception back home for his follow-up film – following rapturous reviews around the world – that he most cherished.

Production still from Lewis Robinson's Addiction

“It all came full circle, back to Harrogate,” he said.

Robinson had grown up there and attended Ashville College before going on to film school at the old Ealing Studios in London, and had decided to return for a project he said was close to his heart.

His short film, Addiction, is a work of fiction about the effects on a family, as seen by an addict.

The audience at the Everyman Cinema who voted it their favourite at the Harrogate Film Festival knew it had been filmed there – they recognised the local landmarks – but they did not know the extent to which it had been based on fact.

Production still from Lewis Robinson's Addiction

“I’m not an addict but I know people who are, and I’ve seen what it can do to families,” Robinson said.

“The film isn’t based on those people – it’s a story I invented. But I wanted to show the effect on families, and also to offer some hope and optimism through support and rehabilitation. A lot of the short films I watched when I was writing it ended on such a downer– as my own film on Alzheimer’s did.”

The film had its premiere in Manchester, in front of an audience that included many addicts.

“They thought it was a film that only an addict could have made,” Robinson said. “They seemed to come away feeling that people were capable of understanding what they were going through.”

The film’s visual reference points – some scenes were shot in the Valley Gardens – left Harrogate viewers in no doubt that even affluent communities such as theirs were not immune from the problems of addiction, he said.

One reviewer said Robinson’s script “teaches the values of forgiveness and acceptance, without meeting the pitfalls of sounding preachy”.

But he said the plaudit paled in comparison to the Audience Choice Award at Harrogate, a film festival that attracted entries from France, the United States and Spain.

Adam Chandler, the event’s managing director, said: “For a local filmmaker to win our Audience Choice Award is a massive hats-off to Lewis and something Harrogate should be very proud.”

Made on a budget of £10,000, Addiction has won awards at festivals in New York, Los Angeles and Florence as well as his home town of Harrogate.

It centres on a young man estranged from his daughter and cut out by his father, who uses drugs as a doorway through which to escape from his thoughts, while his brother tries to put the fragmented family back together.

Robinson is hoping to secure a distribution deal for the film.