The Opening Night Gala: Hyena and the party.
Day 1 of the EIFF 14 is, let’s be candid, much more about the party than anything else. And this isn’t, in any way, a dismiss of the qualities or seriousness of the festival as a film celebration; quite the opposite. The first day of a festival should be exactly about it, celebratingin a more mundane and social way. People are preparing themselves for, enjoyable but tiring, marathons of screenings and the opening party and gala is a way to relax the body and the spirit, not to mention meeting people that you, for the next 11 days, will bump into or find yourself next to, in a cinema room. And I have to give them that credit: Great Party! Lots of fun, interesting people and delicious drinks in a really breathtaking venue, the National Museum of Scotland.
That said, I don’t feel as excited about the opening film, Hyena (dir. Gerard Johnson). An opening film should be like a business card, a hint for the whole body of work and, precisely because of the pressure that comes with that responsibility, there are more poor than successful choices coming from the idea that you have to please certain groups of people or, as in this case, make a statement. Yes, go ahead and make a statement, a curated selection should always make a statement, but don’t mix statement with shock and scandal. I can only feel that the festival must have mistaken the two, with the choice of this film that manages to fail in all fronts; even shock and scandal are part of this equation only in a very delusional way. Hyena intend to be about corruption and violence in the joint milieu of criminal policemen and drug dealers in west London. And it is a film that, in every second of its 112 minutes, is parading in your face, trying to tell you what it is instead of letting you discover it, showing you what you should feel and think about it. You are only left to feel that its genesis, out of shock value and childish transgressive goals, is determinant to the way its structure seems like a long, and very boring, act of exibitionism. There is no subtlety or depth under the (very imposed) rough surface, just a gruesome and exhausting film trying too hard to be instead of being (i.e. meaningful, provocative). Less about violence and much more gratuitously violent per se, not even a consistent performance by Peter Ferdinando (the leading actor) or a promising opening sequence can do much for it. As it progresses, it turns more and more into a compendium of cliched slow motion party scenes and over the top (almost camp) gory crimes to the sound of blasting doors.
Now looking forward to the flood of films and hours in the dark.