Gerard Johnson’s Thriller ‘Hyena’ to Open Edinburgh Film Festival

Nine British pix selected by Edinburgh chief Chris Fujiwara compete for the Michael Powell Award

LONDON — Gerard Johnson’s thriller “Hyena” will open the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 18.

The film stars Peter Ferdinando (“Starred Up”) and Stephen Graham (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), MyAnna Buring (“Downton Abbey”), Neil Maskell (“Wild Bill”), Elisa Lasowski (“Somers Town”) and Richard Dormer (“Good Vibrations”).

Pic revolves around anti-hero Michael Logan (Ferdinando), a natural predator, and a complex mix of high-functioning addict and corrupt police officer, whose dark world is evolving. A recent influx of ruthless Albanian gangsters is threatening to change London’s criminal landscape. Logan’s razor sharp instincts have always kept him one step ahead, but now his increasingly self-destructive behavior and the sheer brutality of the new gang lords find him in a spiraling descent of fear and self-doubt.

Chris Fujiwara, Edinburgh’s artistic director, said: “It’s a powerful and beautifully directed thriller that clearly establishes director Gerard Johnson as a major talent in British filmmaking. It’s also an exceptional example of the kind of film that our festival has traditionally supported: a work in which a director of artistic integrity takes a vigorous and imaginative approach to the renewal of a film genre.”

The film is produced by Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen and Joanna Laurie. Sam Lavender and Katherine Butler exec produced for Film4, which developed the pic. It was co-financed by Film4, BFI, Ingenious and Lipsync.

The pic will join eight other British films in competition for the festival’s Michael Powell Award. The films, which were selected by Fujiwara, will be judged by an international jury. The award rewards imagination and creativity in British filmmaking.

The other films competing are:

– Gillies Mackinnon with the world premiere of “Castles in the Sky,” the story of Scottish engineer and developer of radar, Robert Watson-Watt, played by Eddie Izzard.

– Guy Pitt with debut feature “Greyhawk,” which stars Alec Newman as a withdrawn, blind ex-soldier who loses his beloved guide dog on an infamous housing estate.

– Joanna Coates’ “Hide and Seek,” a study of a modern attempt at living a utopian ideal. It makes its world premiere.

– Charlie Weaver Rolfe’s directorial debut “My Accomplice,” a romantic comedy set in English seaside town Brighton. It receives its world premiere.

– Andy Goddard with the world premiere of “Set Fire to the Stars,” a drama about Dylan Thomas battling his demons in 1950s New York. Celyn Jones plays Thomas and Elijah Wood is John Malcolm Brinnin.

– Graham Hughes’ “A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide,” a comedy about a young man who wants to kill himself and starts a blog charting his plans for the ultimate “spectacular suicide.”

– Uberto Pasolini’s “Still Life,” with Eddie Marsan as a city hall worker charged with finding the next of kin of those who have died alone.

– Antony Petrou’s “We Are Monster,” based on the real-life case of an Asian teenager brutally murdered in his cell in a U.K. young offenders institution by a racist fellow inmate. It receives its world premiere.

The festival runs June 18-29.

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