top of page
  • Writer's pictureSofia Cann

COAL IN THEIR VEINS - An Award-Winning Short Film

Addiction is a family disease

Coal in Their Veins’ is an award-winning short film based on true events that’s set and filmed in and around Pontefract and Leeds in West Yorkshire. It’s a drama set post the closure of the mines in Yorkshire where communities were hit by a heroin pandemic. Coal was once said to run through the veins of pit villagers, however, for many of the youngsters who live in former mining communities, it’s heroin.

This intimate film reflects the personal journey of a tough-loving Yorkshire mother struggling with lies, sleepless nights, and endless worry of her son's heroin addiction. Broken promises and unforgivable deceit lead her to rock bottom where she's confronted with an impossible decision.

The film highlights the distress and frustration of family members who can become ill themselves often suffering physical and mental ill health. They can often feel torn between doing all they can to help or protect their loved one, but unwittingly becoming an enabler by supplying them with money which feeds their habit or by protecting them from the repercussions of their lifestyles. The film focuses on bringing awareness to topics that are often untold or unspoken and shines a light on challenging subjects but it’s also a message of hope.

Drug, alcohol, or other addictions are often called ‘a family disease’ because the impact of the disease extends to the entire family. Loved ones of addicts have been overlooked with attention being on the addict but addiction of a family member has drastic effects on the family or those closest to the addict as a whole.

Film Director Dalit Merhav said: “It was important to me to bring to the forefront the topic of how addiction has a profound effect on those closest to the addict and that they require just as much support and help for themselves. I wanted to do a film that is relevant to the region and the events that took place post the closure of the mines, where many of the young adults getting hooked on heroin really spoke to me.”

50-year-old director and editor of the film, Dalit Merhav originates from Tel Aviv in Israel but has now very much settled in Leeds. She began her career with video editing for TV and commercials, and in 1995 moved to London working as a music video editor on projects such as Travis and UB40. Dalit has since worked for Yorkshire Television and several Indie production companies such as True North Productions and started her own successful music production company called ‘Firm Music’. Living in Leeds, Dalit has created a film company called ORA Films which focuses on life changing stories rarely told, with an ethos of being a female-driven award-winning production house. This is Dalit’s first short film and has already been screened worldwide and won international awards.

Dalit Merhav said: “As a first-time female director and a 50-year-old, I’d like to think that I helped in breaking the misconception that it’s all downhill for women at our age. I feel very empowered at this cross point in my life, and I hope that the success of the film will inspire other women to follow their dream and remain true to themselves."

Proudly filmed on location in Yorkshire, Merhav draws on local talent. Experienced actress Lisa Allen (Coronation Street, Emmerdale, DCI Banks) also 50 and originally from Bolton but has lived in Hebden Bridge. West Yorkshire for 20 years, takes the leading role as Alison alongside rising star Declan O’Connor who plays her troubled son. Merhav enlists scriptwriter Josh Aarons originally from Newcastle with strong connections from Leeds and Hull, and cinematographer Mark Stokes from Leeds in her latest offering.

Allen gives a tour de force performance as working-class single mother Alison Buxton. She is an immersive actress and her ability to present Alison’s strength, resilience and fragility is the foundation of the film. Her beautifully nuanced performance encapsulates the characters single minded determination to see her son survive heroin addiction, post the 1980’s UK pit closures and takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster. Lisa’s heart-breaking, yet uplifting, portrayal of Alison serves as a reminder of the power of working class, middle aged, female stories.

Although the film intentionally focuses on Alison, his mother, Declan O’Connor pulls a show stopping performance. Portraying a son who is in the depth of addiction, lies and deceit he still manages to portray Carl as a sympathetic figure. He is just on the right side of charming, vulnerable and troubled.

The film is a true celebration of Northern talent on and off screen. Coal In Their Veins proves that good films can be made in Yorkshire with local talent.

Coal in Their Veins is an award-winning film. Accolades include:

  • Los Angeles Short Film Awards 2021 - Winner

  • Diversity in Cannes. Short Film Showcase 2021 - Official selection

  • Berkshire International Film Festival 2021 - Official selection

  • Red Rock Film Festival 2021 Utha - Official selection

  • Los Angeles Independent Film Awards 2021 - Official selection

  • Toronto International Women Film Festival 2021 - Official selection

  • London International Monthly Film Festival 2022 - Official selection

‘Coal in Their Veins’ will premiere on Thursday 11 November from 6.30pm- 8.30pm at The Archive on Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Invited guests will enjoy an evening that includes a drinks reception, screening of the film followed by a Q&A with the cast and director.

To find out more on the film, please visit

Credit: Coal in their Veins Simon K Allan Smith Photography

65 views0 comments


bottom of page