As many of you may know, FRUK is based in Somerset in the South West, a county which enjoys a vast array of natural habitats. One of the most beautiful and mysterious is the Somerset Levels and Moors, essentially a vast floodplain which people have been draining since before the Domesday Book. The area attracted early human settlers throughout the last 10,000 years to islands of land and there are numerous archaeological treasures preserved in peat, including wood. The most famous being the Sweet Track…an ancient trackway. The earliest known human figurine in the UK was also found there, the Neolithic ‘God Dolly’.
As reclaimed land, there is a constant need to drain the area and manage its numerous irrigation ditches which become heavily silted if not managed properly and which then slow/stop water escaping. This is something the Environment Agency received heavy criticism for following the 2014 floods (and rightly so, because they essentially stopped dredging to save money – nothing compared to the cost of the clean-up operation). The floods brought devastation, ruin and despair to many communities and farmers on the Levels.
It is these floods which provide the backdrop for writer-director Hope Dickson Leach’s highly assured debut The Levelling, which features a superb central performance from Game Of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick. After the mysterious death of her brother Harry (Blakemore), veterinary student Clover (Kendrick) returns to the Somerset family farm where she grew up. Against the backdrop of the floods that devastated her home, Clover confronts her estranged father, Aubrey (Troughton), in an attempt to uncover the truth.
Troughton gives a finely tempered performance, perfectly matched by Kendrick’s extraordinary presence in the breakout role of the year. Dickson Leach gives the talented duo a complex, finely crafted script to work with, offering a drama that works on many different levels.
The Levelling was developed and commissioned under the iFeatures scheme – the low budget filmmaking scheme funded by Creative England, the BFI and BBC Films. It is produced by Rachel Robey of Wellington Films. Hope’s debut feature had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016. In October it premiered at the London Film Festival where Hope won the inaugural IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award in Association with the BFI. The film played at further festivals including Thessaloniki, Bath, the Underwire Film Festival, Les Arcs, Rotterdam, Goteborg and Lucca with upcoming screenings at Barcelona Auteur Festival, Crossing Europe Festival in Linz, and the Sydney Film Festival where Hope is one of ten European female filmmakers being showcased at the festival.