Rival gangs documentary scoops top EIFF award

A HARD-HITTING documentary about attempts to bring two rival gangs together in Birmingham has claimed the top honour at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.

A HARD-HITTING documentary about attempts to bring two rival gangs together in Birmingham has claimed the top honour at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.

After the controversial scrapping of jury prizes and red carpets last year, the festival signed off in style with a full house at the Filmhouse for the awards bash.

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One Mile Away, which took two years to make and survived four attempts by the police to seize footage, landed the Michael Powell Award for best British feature.

Documentaries had not previously been eligible, so director Penny Woolcock’s gritty tale was the first to win the prize, which has previously been claimed by the likes of Young Adam, Moon and My Summer Of Love.

Actors Ewen Bremner and Kate Dickie helped present the awards and Woolcock was joined by eight of the gang members at the ceremony in Edinburgh.

One Mile Away explores the cycle of violence which two rival gangs were locked into for 15 years, and Woolcock admitted the film had been a “nightmare” to shoot due to funding problems and opposition from the police.

“It was Shabba, one of the gang members, who initially approached me and asked to help set up a meet with a rival gang member, Dylan,” she said.

“The film came from there. They were determined that it got made, but the police took me to court to try to get the film rushes. It was a nightmare.”

However, the judges were impressed by the creativity Woolcock found in such a tough and uncompromising environment.

The Michael Powell Jury, headed by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, said: “It is a brave and honest film tackling a huge problem with sensitivity and skill, not only charting the efforts to reconcile a community but also showing the great wealth of creativity that is part of the struggle.”

Andrea Riseborough and Brid Brennan won the best performance awards for IRA drama Shadow Dancer, one of the festival’s biggest hits.

Best international feature went to Chinese director Mao Mao for his drama Here, Then which had its world premiere in Edinburgh.