First look at Clio Barnard's Bradford-based love story Ava and Ali

A first-look image has been released after Yorkshire filmmaker Clio Barnard has finished principal photography her upcoming feature Ali and Ava.

The film, which was shot in the Bradford district, is billed as a contemporary British love story "imbued with the intricacies of age, class and race".

Ava and Ali shot in Bradford. Picture: Moonspun Films

Ava and Ali shot in Bradford. Picture: Moonspun Films

It tells the story of a respected matriarch, played by Claire Rushbrook, on a predominantly white Bradford estate.

In her fifties and from an Irish-Catholic background, Ava is a devoted mother, grandmother and teaching assistant who fills her time looking after others and listening to country and folk music, masking the scars left by an abusive ex-husband.

Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a charismatic son, brother, boss and landlord, an avid music and book lover and moon watcher.

In his mid-thirties, Ali is devoted to his family and Asian community in Bradford.

Clio Barnard. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire.

Clio Barnard. Picture: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire.

Still living with his estranged wife, he hides their separation from his family, "painfully continuing the charade of marital domesticity because he still loves her".

Both lonely for different reasons, Ava and Ali find each other, producers say.

Hugo Hepell, head of investments at film and TV agency Screen Yorkshire, which part-funded the movie, said: ‘’We had such a fabulous time working with Clio and Tracy on ‘Dark River’, and so were keen from the start to be involved in ‘Ali and Ava’. It’s authentic to its communities just as all Clio’s films are, and a hugely moving and engaging story.”

Barnard, who grew up in Skipton and went on to study in Leeds, is known for her feature-length The Arbor, a documentary about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, which received critical success on its release in 2010 and numerous awards.

Her second feature The Selfish Giant, about two 13-year-old working-class friends in Bradford seeking their fortune, launched at Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in 2013 and won the British Film of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards along with a host of other festival awards.

Her third feature, Dark River, starring Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley and Sean Bean premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, gaining a special mention from the festival jury for the Platform Prize.

The latest film is produced by Barnard’s long-term producer Tracy O’Riordan (Dark River, The Selfish Giant, Dream Horse) of Moonspun Films.

She said: "It was wonderful to be back in Bradford shooting Clio’s fourth feature; a love story, based on people we have met whilst making our previous films there. Inspired by Fassbinder’s ‘Fear Eats the Soul’, ALI & AVA is a film about fear and courage, loneliness and belonging, time and love."

The film is financed by BBC Films, the British FiIm Institute (awarding National Lottery funding) and Screen Yorkshire, with Altitude handling world sales and UK and Irish distribution.

Rushbrook was most recently seen in leading roles in Don’t Forget The Driver (BBC) and No Offence (Channel 4). Her film credits include Secrets and Lies, Under The Skin, Spider-Man Far From Home and the upcoming Enola Holmes opposite Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown.

Akhtar has received acclaim for both his comedic roles and his dramatic performances in films including Four Lions, The Big Sick, The Dictator, Pan, Swimming With Men and Victoria and Abdul.

In 2017 he won the BAFTA Leading Actor Award for his role in the BBC drama Murdered by My Father, making history for being the first non-white actor to do so.

His television work also includes the role of Wilson Wilson in C4’s ‘Utopia’ for which he was BAFTA nominated for Best Supporting Actor and the BBC mini-series’ Capital and The Night Manager.