The 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival got under way last night in controversial fashion with the world premiere of Gerard Johnson’s graphically violent crime drama Hyena.
Introducing the film at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, Johnson warned the audience that they might “feel feint” at some moments, but reminded them that “it’s only a film”.
Hyena, starring the director’s cousin Peter Ferdinando, is the story of a London copper who blurs the ethical lines in the grim environs of the city’s drugs and vice-fuelled underbelly.
While it falls victim to some clichés of the crime genre, Hyena is a stylish, brooding neo-noir thriller that packs an undeniable punch.
EIFF artistic director Chris Fujiwara explained that it was the film’s “intensity” that swayed his decision to host it as the festival’s opening night gala, and it certainly lived up to his description.
The film’s director and cast, including Ferdinando and co-stars Stephen Graham and Elisa Lasowski were in attendance at the screening and after-party, which took place at the nearby National Museum of Scotland.
Talking to WOW247 at the premiere, This is England star Graham explained the appeal of appearing in Hyena:
“First of all it was the director, Gerard, and then it was the chance to work with Peter. I saw Gerard’s first film, Tony, and I was blown away by it, I was mesmerised by it. I watched it with my Dad actually, and at the end we were like ‘wow’, because it’s uncomfortable to watch.
“But then I read the script and it was fantastic, and to work with a great cast – Neil Maskell, who I’ve known for years, who’s an amazing actor, and just to be in a film with your peers, who you grow up with as an actor, and with people who you admire as an actor, was just an honour.”
Ferdinando, meanwhile, underlined the importance of festivals like EIFF:
“Edinburgh’s very important, this is a prestigious festival, if not more so than London. London’s getting better but you don’t feel like you’re at a festival in London because it’s such a big city and when it’s held at different venues it never feels like you’re in a community of film-makers. It’s getting better, but this to me feels like a prestigious film festival and it is, there are some great films showing here this year, some fantastic stuff. Unfortunately I’m not here to see any of them, I’ve got to leave tomorrow!”