A LOCAL filmmaker wants to highlight the plight of marginalised communities who have been “forgotten about” in the wake of her directorial debut being screened across the world.

Louisa Rose Mackleston, who is from Keighley, also wants to shine a light on voices from across the north of England following the success of her hit short film Ruth & Safiya.

The 15-minute film, which was released last year, 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 in the city.

Filmed in Skipton, Ruth & Safiya has been screened as far afield as South Korea, and has been praised for its storytelling, despite only being produced on a small budget.

“Ruth & Safiya is an intrinsically Bradford story – it showcases the diverse range of people who live here”, said Louisa, 26.

“I’m really passionate about representing Bradford on screen and telling local stories.

“Ruth finds Safiya hiding in an allotment one day, and they end up bonding. They are both from marginalised communities – Ruth is elderly and Safiya is a refugee.

“I’m passionate about showing different age ranges and ethnicities on screen and I wanted to highlight the diversity of Bradford through my storytelling.”

Louisa runs production company Northern Fortress, which aims to nurture the next generation of filmmakers from the north of England.

“The north, and particularly Bradford, often gets overshadowed by other places”, 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.

“With Northern Fortress, I’m helping young people develop their careers to get into the film industry and enabling them to tell their stories.

“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 we were trying to plan the shoot I was also on an 18-month-long waiting list for surgery”, she said.

“It was challenging to juggle the shoot and my health, 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 by the media, and hopes that her work can help to change perceptions.

“I feel like the war in Syria has been forgotten about by the mainstream media”, 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 bit of a double standard there. I just wanted to raise awareness that there are still refugees living in camps in Calais.”

Through the Young Changemaker Fellowship programme, from the Virgin Money Foundation, Louisa will be heading to Sydney to meet with other production companies, as well as Yamagata, Japan - where she is going in two weeks - after being commissioned to make a documentary about the city, comparing it to Bradford.

This has been facilitated by David Wilson, Director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, who said: "Even though Yamagata is on the other side of the planet, there are many similarities with Bradford.

“As a UNESCO City of Film, Yamagata has an Action Plan for Cultural Promotion which identifies creative activities as a key driver for the city's socio-economic development.

“It also has a thriving film commission, and like the Bradford Film Office, this has helped to raise the profile of the city nationally and internationally. 

“I am delighted Louisa will spend some time in Yamagata and has been invited to make a short film there.”