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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 12:23 GMT
BBC drama tackles homelessness
Colin Firth
Colin Firth plays Mark who is gripped by guilt at his wealth
Colin Firth and Robert Carlyle star in the BBC's Born Equal, an emotional tale which looks at how hardship, poverty and wealth affects people's lives.

The film tells the story of social inequality in the UK through the lives of several characters living in temporary housing accommodation.

Firth plays Mark, a rich city worker who enjoys a comfortable lifestyle.

But he feels pangs of guilt when he is confronted with how other people, less fortunate than he, are forced to exist.

Mark embarks on a personal journey to try and make a difference in a world that could not be more different from his own.

"My character is the hardest to sympathise with, because people seem to think it's incorrect to sympathise with the one who has actually got the material things," he said.

The idea is that it could happen to anyone
Dominic Savage, Born Equal director
"I think that's an unimaginative view... but nevertheless there is nothing attractive about the poor little rich boy.

"Once having taking it on I was fascinated by the complexity of someone in that situation."

The other characters all have their own stories to tell with one thing in common; they are all seeking refuge.

Heavily-pregnant Michelle, played by Anne-Marie Duff, moves into temporary accommodation with her daughter after fleeing a violent husband.

Her character forms an intriguing friendship with Robert (Robert Carlyle) who is attempting to find his feet after being released from prison.

Sense of deprivation

Yemi (David Oyelowo), and his wife Itshe (Nikki Amuka-Bird) had to leave Nigeria for asylum in the UK. The couple find themselves in a race against time, as they try to raise enough money to bring their family safely over to the UK too.

Firth, 46, said he found playing Mark a challenge as he "identified with him so little".

Anne-Marie Duff
Everyone likes to think they're safe, but we're not, that's the eye-opener
Anne-Marie Duff

And he hopes the gripping storyline will make people more aware of the issue of homelessness, especially at Christmas time.

"I think maybe if this film gets under your skin, it will feel a little bit different the next time you go down an underpass and walk past a homeless person," he said.

"Films can turn into reference points and it just might pass into people's hard-drives somewhere," he added.

Bafta award-winning writer and director Dominic Savage, who describes the story as "satisfying and emotional", is confident the gritty tale will have an emotional impact.

The sterile rooms in which most of the film is shot gives the audience, a real sense of deprivation.

The silent and uncomfortable pauses used cleverly in several scenes highlight how easily the television and radio is taken for granted in most people's homes.

"I think, hopefully, what this film will do is engage people and realise that everyone has a story. The idea is that it could happen to anyone," he said.

Robert Carlyle
Robert plays a former convict who tries to find his mother

Before Savage started work on the film he embarked in some research which involved meeting with people who live in hostels.

He also encouraged the actors to do the same.

Duff met women who, like her character, had escaped violent relationships.

It was something Duff, who starred in Channel 4's Shameless, found emotional.

"It was very upsetting and you can't help but be moved," she said.

"We're all only a few steps away from some dark corners.

"Everyone likes to think they're safe, but we're not, that's the eye-opener."

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