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Review of "HEALING"
By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2014 Written 29th April 2014. Revised 30th April 2014. Revised 1st May 2014. Revised 17th May 2014. Revised 3rd January 2015.
REVIEW: "HEALING" by Jayne Waterford

Don Hany puts in a stellar performance in his featured role as the Persian accented Viktor Khadem in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014).

Viktor is a man consumed by shame, facing a life of freedom without anyone. Fortunately he enters the care of Prison Officer Matt Perry (a Hugo Weaving carrying a little weight and strutting. It's good to see). Empathy springs up between the characters. Perry has lost of child and finds out that Viktor has a married son with a young family, Yousef (Dimitri Beveas).

Dimitri Beveas had three scenes with Don Hany as father and son, Yousef and Viktor. Beveas researched the Persian role with family friends in Sydney. He performed wonderfully. He presented a respectable family and was angry. Furious. Real. It was great!

Their situation echoes the estrangement between other father and son figures in the film. For example, between Paulie (Xavier Samuels) and his dad. In fact, James Lawson's performance as Paulie's dad in the closing moments of the film are some of the best.

"HEALING" is entertaining. Many of the characters

are straight out larrikin and can't help but quip. "There goes the salmonella," jokes Egan (Tony Martin) as he watches Viktor clean a kitchen. And then there's Shane (Mark Winter). Shane is defenceless young man who has been in the prison system before. He is used to slotting into place and is used to being used badly. He's a charmer who considers himself quite convincing and only has to react with a word to have us laughing out loud, at him and with him, depending. Finding his character funny was surprising.

The raptors are not pets. They are wild creatures and they are beautiful. In fact, Hany sustained a raptor injury on set. He coped a talon to just below his eye but chalks it up to human error. (Lucky. Note to tourists: Never go near an eagle or a black cockatoo. They will take your finger off without even thinking, just for fun.)

The cinematography of Andrew Lesnie ACS, ASC leaps to the fore as we get in close to the birds. Their magnificence fills the screen and we are left in no doubt about how dangerous they really are. Hany talks about Andrew Payne's three eagles: Stella, Gracie and a little one and how their personalities came together to perform different aspects of Yasmine, the wedged-tailed eagle featured in the movie. He talks about how the only way they could get the eagles to do anything was with bribery and

joked they have three modes of behaviour:
1. Feed me!
2. Snot and feathers and
3. Fuck the film! Sometimes they get the shits.
He talks about the final shot on the final day in the final scene of the movie and how Stella, in Feed me! mode flew to a kangaroo leg held in his glove, once. The sulky, sook Gracie, a bird who came into Payne's care injured then took over for the more intimate contact that followed, if that was not a taxidermied specimen that Viktor hugged.

Lesnie also does a very cruel job on the men themselves and the skin of Viktor as in the film's opening shot. It's beautiful work.

"HEALING" features the real bird show, Spirits of the Sky. You can see at the Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne. And this film is so great that we are with Viktor when he shows off to his family that he can make Yasmine fly to his glove. We are moved by his sense of achievement and the man he has become, the man in the photograph he wants his son to know.

Don Hany did the most interesting research into prison and prisoners in minimum security before commencing the 5 week shoot. As an aside Hany says that no one who has been involved in the real raptor programme has ever re-offended. There seems

to be great resonance between these men in prison and the birds in in a cage, healing. Australian raptors are beautiful and it's strange they have never taken such pride and place on an Australian screen before.

What I most admired is that Hany didn't take the easy and obvious path for Viktor's character arch. Viktor didn't rediscover his Farsi religion as such. He maintained a strong sense of Australian character in that he remained with his strong internal emotional life born from experience in that, "he wasn't a particularly religious guy." Hany sees Viktor's faith as more Sufi in his, "adoration for things natural." He speaks poetry to Yasmine in Persian and is, "reminded that he is capable of love again." Viktor is confounded, "with the Australian idiom and life in a jail."

Having been in prison in support of a project on keeping your drug kit clean, I noticed Paul (Xavier Samuel)'s appropriation on the rule, do not look any outsider in the eye. Where Samuels kept his eyes downcast as if coy I found that prisoners looked at you without looking at you. It was if light bent around you and they could see behind you perfectly. It's like you're missing. Samuels avoided eye contact with an emotional content that I don't like. It reminded me of much recent cinematic reinvention of Australian identity. It's child-like and makes me want to walk out.

If I have a gripe about Hany's Viktor, it is the dirt on his face. Dirt. Again, a pet gripe of mine. See John Curran's "TRACKS" (2013) and John Hillcoat's "THE PROPOSITION" (2005) for details.

Jane Menelaus does a great educated woman, Glynis Holmes, in charge of the raptors. She is given great one liners that really put situations away. Justine Clarke on the other hand projects her married life and history marvellously as Perry's wife in scant screen time.

Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014) is positive and hopeful if a little starry-eyed in it's opinion of the imprisoned, but thn they are on their way out. Who wants to jeopardise release? Hany wrapped up his Q&A session with the political point, "I don't think we get better people by punishing them this way," and apologised for raising the spectre. When people loose a family member to prison they never get thm back. People move on, family's move on and prisoners can establish surrogates inside that makes he prospect of freedom away from their family unbearable. Casting was flawless, direction, impeccable. "HEALING" is a wonderfully realised, well humoured, Australian drama. I enjoyed this film immensely and hope my family get to see it. 8/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2014.

Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)
all that you are seeking is seeking you.
Director Craig Monahan
Producers Craig Monahan & Tait Brady
Stars Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, Xavier Samuel, Tony Martin, Mark Winter, Jane Menelaus, Robert Taylor and Anthony Hayes.
Release Date 8th May 2014
Category Drama
Running Time 119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
Rating M
Origin Australia
Distributor Pinnacle Films
Official Blurb "A powerful story of redemption, the discovery of hope and the healing of the spirit – in the most unlikely place, for the most unique men, through the most unusual catalyst.
After 18 years in prison, Viktor Khadem (Don Hany) is a man who has almost given up on life.

For his final 12 months, he is sentenced to Won Wron, a low-­-security prison 200 km outside Melbourne in regional Victoria, where Senior Officer Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving) has established a unique program to rehabilitate broken men through giving them the responsibility for the rehabilitation of injured raptors – beautiful, fearsome proud eagles, falcons and owls.

Against all odds, Matt takes on Viktor as his number one test case, introducing him to Yasmine, the majestic Wedge-­-tailed Eagle with a two-­- metre wingspan. If these two can tame each other, anything is possible.

healing is a powerful, moving story of redemption, the discovery of hope and the healing of the spirit – in the most unlikely place, for the most unique men, through the most unusual catalyst.

Inspired by true events, healing is a new Australian feature film written and directed by Craig Monahan, the multi-­-award winning director of The Interview -­- Winner of Best Film -­- Australian Film Institute Awards." - Pinnacle Films PR

"d i r e c t o r ’ s s t a t e m e n t

Alison Nisselle and I spent many years researching and writing a story inspired by the remarkable Raptor Rehabilitation Program established between Healesville Sanctuary and Prisons Victoria.

During our research we were amazed by the characters we met and their commitment to the program across both institutions. From the Governor, to the Case Officers, the inmates themselves, and the Healesville Sanctuary bird handlers, we have walked among them and followed their lives, both inside, and outside the prison. We have also followed the progress of the Raptor Rehab Project from its uncertain beginning, to its wholly unexpected and inspirational success.

The many stories we heard along the way were the inspiration to craft our tale. The relationship between the most hardened and hopeless men, and the vulnerable, damaged birds, wrought unimaginable changes. It is not about injustice, or about right and wrong; it is about the deep, human need to love and be loved, because only through this do we heal and redeem and find our way home.

Won Wron Prison was a real place, a minimum security un-­-walled prison farm where long term

inmates reaching the end of their sentence are prepared for release back into the real world. It looked not unlike a country motel.

Minimum security is about being de-­-institutionalised. Inmates are encouraged to engage in productive work to prepare them for release. On the Raptor Rehab Project this includes everything from building the aviaries, breeding the food source (rats and mice), to a disciplined program of caring for the injured birds in the hope they can be released back into the wild.

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary has a large and specialised birds of prey section. They’re the main receiving centre for a growing number of injured raptors as our suburbs and farming expand to envelope their habitat.

For those birds that prove un-­-releasable the no petting rules are abandoned. They’re handled, trained and absorbed into Healesville’s spectacular Bird Show, which is now a major tourist attraction.

Meeting and hearing the inspirational stories of the many people we met along the way, we became both intrigued and moved. This was no ordinary prison, and these were no ordinary prison stories. They were stories of redemption, rehabilitation and hope. Quite simply we became hooked.

Our story centers on convicted murderer Viktor Khadem and Prison Officer/Case Worker Matt Perry. It’s a relationship between two men from vastly different worlds and cultures, who are both in their own way deeply damaged, and as much in need of healing as the birds who bring them together."
- Craig Monahan

"Inspired by true events, HEALING is a powerful, moving story of redemption, the discovery of hope and the healing of the spirit – in the most unlikely place, for the most unique men, through the most unusual catalyst.

The film stars Don Hany in a breakout performance and the always excellent Hugo Weaving. The supporting cast is made up of Xavier Samuel, Tony Martin, Mark Winter, Jane Menelaus, Robert Taylor and Anthony Hayes.

Craig Monahan, the director of one of the most highly regarded Australian films of the last 20 years, The Interview, directs.

Academy Award winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie is behind the camera and one of my favourite composers, David Hirschfelder, has written a beautiful score to accompany Andrew’s images."
- Pinnacle Films PR

Senior Officer Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving) in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)
Viktor Khadem (Don Hany) and the majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)
Viktor Khadem (Don Hany) in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)
Xavier Samuels in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)
Viktor Khadem (Don Hany) and the majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle in Craig Monahan's "HEALING" (2014)