Mo Ali Responds To COVID-19 With Interconnected Film About Black British Lives During Lockdown

Award-winning filmmaker, Mo Ali, launches new production company M. A. Films.

The first project from Mo Ali’s new production company is an interconnected film called ‘Breathe‘. The film is told in four parts, written by four Black British writers; Sheila Nortley, Robert Bertrand, D’Marie Dowe, and Miles Mitchell, whilst featuring the best in Black British acting talent. Directed and produced by Mo and co-produced with actress and filmmaker, Kyla Frye, the pair aim to shed light on the parts of Black British lives that are rarely seen on screen. Filming commences in September with final casting taking place at the end of August.

Breathe gives audiences insight into the healing, grieving, love, and mental health of black people during COVID in the UK. Told through the eyes of eight Black British people at one moment in time this interconnected film of four stories gives us an intimate look into the lives and relationships of those emerging from lockdown, as they prepare to get back to a new kind of normal.

“The reason I’m making these films is that over the last few months, we, in the Black community, have faced racial injustices and have been fighting for our rights and our place in the world. We have also made connections and healed each other, and I want to showcase that.”

– Mo Ali

Ali goes on to say, “I’m a huge fan of everybody who has agreed to come on board as this is not only a great vehicle to collaborate but also to build something that highlights our stories, our narrative, and our healing in a beautiful way. We hope through this film project; we can inspire change and spark, not only a conversation but a movement in our industry.”

Producer Kyla Frye says “I’ve always wanted to work with Mo but figured it would be as an actor, not alongside him as a producer. I truly appreciate his belief in my ability to help make these films special but also his support of me as a working mum. I believe very strongly in creating stories that are all about being the change we want to see, and so when Mo first told me about this project, I knew it was definitely something that would be truly reflective of the community the cast and writers represent and that excites me.”

The films which make up Breathe are as follows:

Laces – by Robert Bertrand
With society being strangled to its last breath, a young father is fearful of what the future holds for him and his son and whether he should take his son’s innocence from him before anyone else does.

Robert Bertrand is a writer from a Caribbean background who focuses on social realist dramas with a touch of comedy. He has worked alongside writers Barrie Keefe, Roy Williams, and Rikki Beadle Blair. Robert has been part of the Royal Court Young Writers programme. He has written for the theatre, film, and television and has completed a TV drama writing course at the National Film and Television School taught by Peter Ansorge.

Turn to Stone – by Miles Mitchell
Long time friends Kwame and Justin reconnect after what feels like a lifetime apart. Lockdown measures have eased, so they agree to meet by the river Thames. Although they seem to pick up right where they left off, it’s apparent that recent events forever changed them. The unprecedented action of opening up and talking about feelings, trauma, death, and failure is a massive moment in the pair’s friendship. To be hard is to be strong, or is it? They have been conditioned to be hard, but hard things break.

Miles Mitchell trained at the Brit School and Rose Bruford Drama School. Miles plays the lead in the upcoming feature film Stuck On a Swiss Island (RSI). TV credits include Irregulars (Netflix), Casualty (BBC), The Tempest (CBBC), Law & Order: UK (ITV), King Lear (BBC), and Drifters (E4).
Theatre credits include Salomè (RSC), Dido Queen of Carthage (RSC), Great Britain (Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Comedy of Errors (National Theatre), A Taste of Honey (National Theatre) and King Lear (Royal Exchange). Radio credits include These Are the Times (BBC Radio 4). Turn to Stone is his writing debut.

Little Miss Sunshine – by Sheila Nortley
When a young man reunites with his girlfriend after lockdown, the emotional turmoil of their recent miscarriage causes them to re-evaluate their relationship. Little Miss Sunshine sensitively explores the nuances of loss, grief, and love during isolation in a poignant two-hander.

Sheila Nortley is a British-Ghanaian award-winning filmmaker who has written, produced, and directed several internationally renowned projects. In 2013 she produced the independent feature Sable Fable which went on to win best film at the prestigious American Black Film Festival awards in Miami, Florida. In 2016 she won the Woman of The Future Awards in arts & culture for her work in film and was invited to Buckingham Palace. The following year her film Limbo was shot in Norfolk, Virginia, and selected at various international festivals including the Cannes Pan-African Film Festival. 2018 feature film “The Strangers” was shot and principal photography for feature film A Game of Two Halves began in November 2019 – both penned by Sheila. She ended the year in writer’s rooms for two series in development with Netflix and Channel 4. Her latest short film Sometimes I Feel was selected for the Oscar-qualifying PAFF Festival in La 2020. Currently, Sheila is developing her next feature film with BFI and Film London.

Get Over It by D’Marie Dowe
This is a short film which centres around a mother who struggles to manage her daughter’s fear of the outside post-COVID. The pair take their first ventures outside after three months and they both have different takes on how they see the world. Sasha sees opportunity and possibility but her daughter Ebony is rigid with fear and sees the world as a dark, dangerous, and prejudiced place. Ebony eventually comes to terms with her fears.

D’Marie Dowe is a filmmaker. Her specialism is screenwriting; she graduated from LCC with a screenwriting MA. She was a BUFF script judge for five years and has several years’ experience of providing script coverage to independent production companies and writers. D’Marie has just directed a 30-minute film Say Nothing which examines the lack of social cohesion between the police and the black community. D’Marie comes from a background of working with young people from inner-city London. She across genres but prefers dark action. Her writing tends to tell the Black British experience and focuses on unseen characters transitioning into adulthood.


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