East Birmingham film to hit the silver screen

Locally-made production premieres at the Electric Cinema.

A young woman poses as a care worker in order to gain access to her estranged grandfather in a new short film shot in Shard End and Stechford.

Deep Roots writer Tennexa Freeman (pic right) and director Kieron ‘Konez’ Burke of Birmingham arts collective The Creative Universe spent time with communities in both areas before producing the movie, which premieres at The Electric Cinema on Friday 4th November.

Shot on location in a house in Stechford, Bachelor Farm Recreation Ground, and in Stechford Library, the short explores mental health, generational trauma and domestic abuse, though writer Tennexa says its outlook is a positive one. Production was supported by Birmingham 2022 Festival’s Creative City Project programme, funded by Birmingham City Council.

Tennexa and Kieron spent a couple of weeks immersed in the two east Birmingham communities, running creative workshops with local people. They held dance sessions for young people and community conversations with older residents at Aylesford Hall in Shard End and Stechford Library. The filmmakers also spoke to over 60 people at community hubs and local businesses, including a barber shop.

Tennexa said: “Deep Roots explores mental health and how, as humans, we use our own coping systems to heal.

“Though the film is not based on real events, it explores themes and issues raised in discussions with the communities, from substance use to generations of worklessness and recovery, unstable relationships, domestic abuse, trauma and family. Its message is that it is never too late to start the healing process and embrace change.”

The writer said she knew that she wanted to take personal growth and healing as the starting point for the story and then work backwards. “The tale starts to unravel and dig down to its ‘deep roots’ when the characters ask for help. I wanted to demonstrate how powerful asking for help can be and how it is the catalyst for change.”

Tennexa, who is from Aston, says the message resonates deeply with her as she has had to reconcile with difficult periods in her own life. “I lost my mum at a relatively young age,” she said, “and then had to play a large role in raising my younger brothers alongside studying for a degree and working as a writer. Asking for help and starting some counselling helped me to heal.”

According to Tennexa, the film shares lived experiences of people living in two communities that rank amongst the most deprived 10% in the UK.

She said: “It really struck me how self-reliant and self-contained these communities are – just a small number of miles to the east of the city centre, and yet totally separate. Both communities welcomed us warmly and I would particularly like to thank the team at Stechford Library for all their input and support.”

Director Kieron ‘Konez’ Burke said: “I was honoured to direct and co-develop this short film. It was a unique experience and strong subject matter – equally important to present onscreen storytelling through the language of timing, uncertainty and isolation.”

In the film, the grandfather, called Michael, is played by actor Kerry Frater. A member of the Birmingham Rep Adult Drama Company, he is originally from Wales and has been living in Birmingham for 40 years. Granddaughter Kim is played by fellow Birmingham actor Katie Chapman.

Accompanying the film will be a piece of spoken word about mental health from rapper Rawality and a panel discussion led by community leaders.

The Creative Universe is a collective of black and global majority artists, working in theatre, film and other creative media. In June this year, it became the first resident company to be based at Birmingham Old Rep Theatre.

Deep Roots will premiere at The Electric Cinema B5 4DY on Friday 4 November at 6.30pm. Tickets.