May 14, 2014
This is an Australian drama inspired by a story written by a journalist in 1998. It is about the bringing together of prisoners at Won Wron prison, Victoria, and birds of prey at the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in Victoria.
Inmates at the low-security correctional centre, which closed in late 2004, were given the responsibility of rehabilitating injured birds in its ‘Raptor Rehabilitation Program’. The program helped the birds return to the wild, but also exposed prisoners to an environment that tried to facilitate genuine caring.
In the film, Don Hany plays Viktor Khadem, who is a prisoner nearing the end of a long sentence. He has over a year remaining of a 18-year sentence for killing his best friend, and he is broken in spirit, ashamed, lost, and forsaken. He feels totally estranged from his Iranian son, and doesn’t think he has anything to look forward to when he is released.
Hugo Weaving plays a prison case officer, Matt Perry, who initiates the program of healing for the injured birds, and makes Viktor its supervisor against the advice he receives from others. Xavier Samuel, Anthony Hayes, and Mark Leonard Winter play the roles of inmates, who also have significant emotional issues to resolve.
An expert bird-handler was used on the film to help the cast handle the birds of prey, and Hugo Weaving has worked with the director of the movie (Craig Monahan) successfully in the past in quality films such as ‘The Interview’ (1998). In this film, Weaving captures brilliantly the conflicts involved in being someone in authority who cares for others, but has the responsibility for disciplining them as well.
The real star of the film is the injured raptor, Yasmine. She is a proud eagle with a two-metre wing span, and is a magnificent bird of prey. The animal befriends Viktor cautiously, as both bird and human learn to trust each other. The therapeutic benefit of Yasmine to Viktor becomes obvious.
This is a movie that has an inspiring theme which is potentially educational to children as well as to adults. It has strong language in it that is true to the character portrayal of prisoners and their officers. The movie’s classification warns that it could be unsuitable for children’s viewing, but the overall impact of the movie is a gentle, uplifting one – Peter Sheehan, ACOFB
Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, Xavier Samuel, Mark Leonard Winter, Anthony Hayes. Directed by Craig Monahan. Rated M (Coarse language). 119 min.