Short film shot in Pontefract and Leeds makes mark on film festival circuit including Cannes

New short film Coal in their Veins, set and shot in Yorkshire, is receiving acclaim on the festival circuit. Yvette Huddleston talks to director Dalit Merhav.

As a directorial debut Coal in their Veins is pretty impressive. The short film, shot on location in Pontefract and Leeds, has been making its mark on the festival circuit and has already received several accolades.

They include official selections at this year’s Cannes Film Festival Short Film Showcase, Toronto International Women Film Festival and Berkshire International Film Festival.

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It was also a prize-winner in the Los Angeles Short Film Awards.

A scene from Coal in their Veins, set and shot in Yorkshire, directed by first-time drector Dalit Merhav.

“It has exceeded all my expectations,” says first-time director Dalit Merhav.

“When I made the film I really didn’t know how it was going to be perceived so when it started to get accepted in festivals I was thrilled.”

Inspired by actual events, the film is set in a former mining town in Yorkshire and tells the story of one mother’s struggles to keep her heroin addict son safe. It is gritty and unsparing, but ultimately hopeful.

Originally from Tel Aviv in Israel, Merhav has been living in Leeds for many years and has over 20 years’ experience as an editor in the TV industry.

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“When I decided to make a short film it was important to me to do something connected to the region and also within the ethos of my company of telling life-changing stories,” she says. “I began researching and I came across what happened in the mining communities after the closure of the mines. There was high unemployment, no hope for the future and many young adults became hooked on drugs.”

Merhav was inspired by one particular woman she interviewed whose son became an addict. Working with scriptwriter Josh Aarons, she then developed the script, framing the story from the mother’s perspective.

“Often the focus is on the addict but I wanted to bring to the forefront the profound effect that addiction has on family members. The film is a journey that the mother goes through – it is difficult but there is also a message of hope.”

Once the script was ready, Merhav began to assemble her creative team.

“My ambition was to use local talent and the majority of the cast and crew were Yorkshire-based,” she says.

“We filmed in a six-day shoot in October last year and everyone really enjoyed it. It has been a true team effort.”

As a 50-year-old first-time female director, Merhav says she wants to challenge the taboo that still seems to exist around age.

“Women, especially in this industry, are made to feel embarrassed about their age. There is this idea that there is no room for middle-aged women. I feel very empowered at this point in my life and I hope the success of the film will inspire other women to follow their dream and remain true to themselves.”

The film’s UK premiere is on November 11. For details of its availability online visit ora-films.com and Ora Films social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.