Hyena out now in cinemas

hyena-uk-poster.jpg
  Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

I have seen Hyena (2014), which screened as part of the Shorts2Features strand, at the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival on 17th September 2014. A film about bent cops, Albanians, Turks and trafficking going on in West London. It was premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 before and the reason for Hyena linked to Shorts2Features strand was that Gerard Johnson (the director) made two short films; one of them led to the 2009 remake of Tony, his first feature-length film. Johnson collaborated with his star actor and cousin Peter Ferdinando, playing Michael Logan in Hyena (unknown to the public). According to the BBC interview, the reason for their collboration was Johnson knew Ferdinando, more than any other actor and Ferdinando was very cheap to hire. Another member of Johnson's family Johnson collaborated with on his films was his brother Matt Johnson who worked as a composer.

  Peter Ferdinando as Michael Logan

Peter Ferdinando as Michael Logan

  Stephen Graham as David Knight

Stephen Graham as David Knight

The film was produced by Film4, one of the iconic British film productions, and Number 9 Films who had involved on other films including Great Expectations (2012) and Made in Dagenham (2010). There were well-known actors in the film including Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones, Fortitude), Stephen Graham (Broadwalk Empire, Pirates of the Caribbean) and MyAnna Buring (Downton Abbey, Ripper Street). Johnson added the essence of Eastern Europeans particularly Turkish and Albanians in the film in order to depict a cultural diversity in West London society. He also added social realism like he had done on Tony and both Tony and Hynea were typical British crime films.

  Richard Dormer as Nick Taylor

Richard Dormer as Nick Taylor

  MyAnna Buring as Lisa

MyAnna Buring as Lisa

The title Hyena was a reference to its eponymous anti-hero and his police gang, scavenging for drugs in the film's narrative. There were few British film conventions in the film including violence, multicultural society, social realism, gritty style and contemporary international issues. Some elements of black comedy featured within the film especially a satire towards the police which they were represented as the authoritarian corruption.

  Albanian gang represent the violence within the film

Albanian gang represent the violence within the film

As there were contemporary international issues, Hyena dealt with sex trafficking, drug-related crime and gang culture. There was a theme of injustice, which became the film's MacGuffin, for Logan to investigate on the Albanian brothers who brutally murdered his Turkish drug-dealer friend. The one and only scene I wouldn't reveal because it was uncomfortable and shocking to be watched and heard. If you had the curiousity about this scene, go and watch the film unless you're into this sort of the film.

  From left: Stephen Woolley, Neil Maskell, Gerard Johnson & Joanna Laurie

From left: Stephen Woolley, Neil Maskell, Gerard Johnson & Joanna Laurie

After the screening, we had a Q&A with Johnson and the film's producers, Joanna Laurie and Stephen Woolley. Laurie worked as Woolley's assistant for few years until she worked as an associate producer in Byzantium (2012) before collaborating with Woolley as producers. Woolley's career started off at the cinema in 1976 and in 1982, his career flourished for over three decades. He has over twenty executive producer credits including Hollow Reed (1996) and Little Voice (1998), and he has beeen a longtime collaborator of Neil Jordan on producing films including Crying Game (1992) and Interview with the Vampire (1994). He also collaborating with fellow producer Elizabeth Karlsen since Crying Game for over twenty years.

  Elisa Lasowski as Ariana

Elisa Lasowski as Ariana

During the Q&A, Johnson and the producers discussed about the real-life stories that inspired the plot elements in the narrative of Hyena. The first story, which they said it was the 'most heart-breaking story', about a woman who became the victim of sex trafficking. This inspired the characterization of Ariana, played by Elisa Lasowski, a trafficked woman, held as a hostage by the Albanian brothers, and the film's damsel in distress which my expectation of Logan going to save her was fulfilled.

  Johnson, the cats and crew on set of  Hyena

Johnson, the cats and crew on set of Hyena

Another story, inspired the murder at the beginning of the film, told by a trauma doctor about the finding of a dead Turk whose head is decapitated in half. The doctor has been told by the police that they confirmed the incident as suicide. This shocked the doctor, already knowing it was an actual murder due to the fact that murder weapon was found in the crime scene and it was impossible for a man to cut his own head in half. I was totally agreed with the doctor's perspective and stunned about the real injustice in the story. This reminded me of few murders in ITV's Midsomer Murders, where we find a person dead that the characters would think it was suicide but we and Detective Barnaby suspected even more than that.

Finally, there were similarities between Hyena and other films as they may featured in the articles and media publicity. I noticed the similarities between Logan and Jason Statham's character Brant from Blitz (2011). Both were violent and gold-hearted anti-heroes who risked everything to gain justice rather than leaving the police to deal with it. They tellling us a message that police were sometimes being un-trustworthy and they won't to do everything about fulfilling justice. The events where Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley were sentenced to death for the crime they didn't commit, and the Hillsborough disaster were all happened because of the ignorance and selfishness that corrupted the name of the police. These events may tarnish the authoritarian reputation within the police.

Hyena showing in selected cinemas including Watershed at Bristol where it has been shown before last year.