Edinburgh student in running for Palme d’Or prize

A YOUNG filmmaker is in the running for one of the most prestigious prizes at Cannes – with her graduation project.

Eva Riley, left, with Kriszta Laszlo in Cannes. Picture: Complimentary
Eva Riley, left, with Kriszta Laszlo in Cannes. Picture: Complimentary

Eva Riley’s story exploring the rise of the far right and extreme nationalism in England is one of nine contenders for the Short Film Palme d’Or.

Patriot was selected out of more than 4550 short film submissions from more than 100 countries to the world’s biggest film festival.

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It was the first piece of work the 28-year-old, who left the National Film and TV School in Buckinghamshire in February, had ever submitted to Cannes.

Ms Riley, a film and photography graduate of Edinburgh Napier University, will be following in the footsteps of one of Scotland’s best-known filmmakers when her film screens next weekend.

Lynne Ramsay, another Napier graduate who went on to the NFTS, won at Cannes in 1996 with her graduation short Small Deaths, before winning acclaim with features Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Set against the background of simmering racial tensions in a rural English town, the film’s story is told through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, who spends most of the film wearing the flag of the St George’s Cross as a cape.

Upset at being unable join her hard-line father on an anti-immigration protect in London, she finds her life turned upside down after cycling off into the countryside and encountering a boy from a Roma community.

The main stars of the film, which took about a year to make, are two child actors who had never appeared in front of the camera before.

Halle Kidd, 12, had studied ballet, tap and street dance since she was three, but had no previous acting experience.

Co-star Rafael Constantin, 13, was discovered by Ms Riley at a youth club among a group of youngsters from a real-life Roma community.

All of the crew who worked on Patriot, which was shot in Kent, were fellow students.

Ms Riley, who was born in the north of England but brought up in the Capital, is now exploring ideas for her first feature film.

She said: “I obviously knew the film had been submitted, but there is obviously only a very slim chance of getting anything into the festival, so I was shocked and very happy when I heard. I almost fell over.

“The story of the film is about a young girl, Hannah, whose father is the leader of an extreme right-wing group gearing up to go to London. She really loves her dad and really believes everything he says.

“She is on board with all his ideas and wants to get involved with what he’s doing. But because she is so young she is pushed out the way and is told to get out of the house. She is very angry when she cycles off.

“The kernel of the idea I initially had was of a little girl with an England flag on her back. I was really interested in the idea of a child growing up in a really nationalist family, how opinions about other people are formed and what age they are formed.”