A feature film set in Eastbourne is being released this summer

Adventure Boyz. Photo by Neil Garrett.
Adventure Boyz. Photo by Neil Garrett.

A plucky Hailsham film will be taking on the likes of major blockbusters Toy Story 4 and the Lion King when it launches in cinemas this summer.

The dream of local director Howard J. Ford, Adventure Boyz is an action packed-feature film set around Eastbourne and beyond and bursting with local talent.

“I hope it’s a celebration of this area,” said Howard, who also starred in the family film as the two young heroes’ racing driver dad.

The plot follows schoolboys Sam and Jake Harris – played by Howard’s sons Rory, 10, and Felix, eight – and packs a powerful message to ‘get off your device and get out there’.

“Its sole purpose is to entertain and make people feel emotional and nostalgic,” said Howard, “But at the same time, if I really can make people remember not to spend the whole time on our phones – because we all do it, I have to do it for my job – I have got to remember to see life outside of it.

“There has to come a point where we switch this thing off and connect with the real world. For me it’s all about reconnection. We live in an incredibly beautiful world.”

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Adventure Boyz SUS-191005-164300001

And the film shows off the lush, abundant countryside of the South Downs, as we watch the boys cycle through golden fields beneath cornflower skies, and race through vibrant green woodland.

You can recognise numerous familiar spots, including: Arlington Speedway, Eastbourne College, St Andrew’s Prep, Jasper Wood Antiques, Hertsmonceux Castle, Bucklers Café, St Mary’s Walk, Wannock Village Hall, Sharnfold Farm, Love All Café, Friston pond and church, Brighton old police cells, and the South Downs.

Adventure Boyz premiered at the iconic and elegant Hailsham Pavillion cinema at the beginning of the month. It was the first time Howard had watched it with people, “I felt myself willing the jokes to work. I wanted people to be laughing and even crying. Afterwards at least 10 people told me it made them cry!”

There is a serious message behind the film, of the dangers of our obsession with mobile phones and digital devices. Howard said, “We don’t know what our children are looking at online.”

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Adventure Boyz SUS-191005-164330001

He describes one scene, of the boys wandering in a dark bunker (filmed in Seaford) as a metaphor for the dangers of the web. We see the characters flip open a box’s lid, mirroring a laptop, and gaze at the tempting but deadly treasure inside.

“They connect with these adults, these dangerous people that, to me, is the physical manifestation of how I see the online world. The reason I made this was because one day my kids stopped saying to me ‘what should we do today daddy’ and started to say ‘can I go on your iPad?’ It was really upsetting.

“In my view the online world can be far more dangerous than the real world.”

He added, “I’m not trying to say don’t go online. But I heard some children spend more than 10 hours a day on social media. That’s almost your entire waking day.

“I have had messages from people saying they feel more inspired to go outdoors because of the film.”

Rory and Felix carry a great deal of the film, and their performances are wonderfully sincere.

Howard described one moment when his character ends up locked up in a cell and the looks on the two youngster’s faces were their genuine first reactions to seeing their dad behind bars.

He said, “Felix saw me and went white as a ghost. Then I remember one time he said ‘stop filming’ and just wanted to cuddle me. They say never work with animals and children, particularly your own, but I am so proud of them.”

Adventure Boyz is heading to Cannes this weekend, with an official screening at 6pm on Saturday (May 18). Then it returns to Hailsham Pavillion cinema for its opening weekend on July 20, with screenings every week throughout the school holidays. It is also being shown in more than 30 other cinemas across the UK.