On Friday 9th December, Firstsite will present a special screening of My Feral Heart, a film shot entirely in Essex and starring Colchester-based actor Steven Brandon.

Directed by Jane Gull, who is also from Essex, My Feral Heart has been widely praised

– Mark Kermode, The Observer’s film critic, described the central performance as “brilliantly complicated and well-pitched”

– so no wonder 34 year-old Brandon is up for the ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ categories at this year’s British Independent Film Awards. The results will be announced on Sunday, December 4th.

The film’s storyline revolves around a sudden bereavement that throws Luke (Steven Brandon), a fiercely independent young man with Down’s syndrome, into a daunting new environment where he finds unexpected support from his feisty, streetwise carer and a local heir dealing with his own demons. As friendships bloom and long-buried secrets are revealed, Luke verges dangerously close to disaster. My Feral Heart is a beautifully realised, understated character study bolstered by strong performances, distinctive cinematography and a deeply evocative score.


The film has proved an enormous success with the public. First released almost exclusively through Our Screen, the cinema-on-demand platform that empowers the public to make a screening happen in their area, it was initially only to be shown at ten venues over a one-month period.


Such was its popularity, however, that it will now run until the end of March and has secured fifty screenings across the UK, as well as being shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June.


In addition to Brandon’s BIFA nominations, Shana Swash (ex-EastEnders), who plays Luke’s carer Eve, is up for ‘Best Supporting Actress’. Her performance was described as ‘a perky ray of sunshine’ by Sight and Sound magazine.


The film was shot at various locations around Essex – Stambridge, Rayleigh and Rochford, the town where director Jane Gull, producer James Rumsey, and writer Duncan Paveling come from. The links to Essex are even stronger: Brandon was discovered by Gull and Paveling at the Mushroom Theatre Company in Rayleigh, which hosts inclusive dance and drama classes and workshops for people with and without disabilities.


The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Steven Brandon and Jane Gull.


Says Firstsite director Sally Shaw:

We are delighted to be screening this powerful and thought-provoking film at Firstsite. It is a stunning debut feature by Jane Gull, and Steven Brandon turns in an incredible performance as Luke. That, and the fact it was shot around Essex, make it a perfect fit for the gallery.