By Anne Geaghan
Brent has the widest national and ethnic diversity of any borough in London or the UK and this can be seen in some of the work of an Irish teacher in Harlesden and her pupils.
Carmel Beirne-Francis, originally from Leitrim, is Newman College’s head of performing arts. She has been collecting stories from pupils whose families come from all over the world.
One such story told in the student film Letter to Mia, directed and edited by Steven Cholerton.
The film was recently screened at the Kiln in Kilburn, formerly known for many years as The Tricycle. The Kiln is a highly regarded cinema and theatre, with a cutting edge programme of film and theatrical productions.
Letter to Mia tells the story of Halima, a young Muslim girl, who has settled well in London and works in her uncle’s shop after school, saving her modest earnings in a memory box dedicated to her cat Mia, which she had to leave behind when she emigrated.
In the film Halima’s fellow pupil, Felix, has not settled well and is disruptive at home and at school. He attempts to steal a watch from the shop where Halima works, leading to further problems. For Halima, a cat is a symbol of hope and goodness and she offers to use her savings to buy the watch for Felix to show that she believes he can turn his life around for the better.
It is a gently paced film about the journeys, emotions, opportunities and challenges faced by very young people, still in education, when they find themselves in a new country.
It is all the more authentic for being shot on location at Newman College and performances by the school’s pupils.
This film was made in partnership with the Drama Department of Newman Catholic College, Sentient Pictures and The US Charitable Trust.
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