Official Selection, International Film Festival Rotterdam
Official Selection, Seattle International Film Festival
Official Selection, Edinburgh International Film Festival
“9/10... Tenderness and brutality run all the way through, realised by an amazing first-time cast” — Lukey Folkard, AUSTRALIAN FILM REVIEW
Daniel is just out of prison. He’s back to his long-time love Leanne, back to the gang of friends, back to trying to find a honest job and getting his life together. But the return to real life is frightening. The simple joy of being back to his soulmate isn’t enough to extinguish his anger against the world and his anguish at not knowing how to belong in a society where there isn’t much place for an old ex-con who’s lost all his teeth. He’s quickly back to the booze culture of his surroundings and running small scams to make ends meet. His inner violence is often hard to control and the dysfunctional elements of his and Leanne’s relationship easily re-emerge. Soon, an old friend of Leanne appears at their door and takes away his sole reason for existence. Daniel may primarily be a danger to himself, but once he’s lost his compass, all hell breaks loose.
HAIL is the result of a long-term collaboration between Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Daniel P. Jones. Courtin-Wilson, an experienced documentary director with three feature docs and many shorts to his credit, shot the documentary short film CICADA with Jones a few years ago, in which the ex-prisoner recalls a very traumatic event of his childhood on a close camera shot. HAIL is its continuation, nourished by 500 pages of Jones’ personal memories, although the film’s story is entirely fictional. The personal involvement goes further, with his real-life partner Leanne Letch playing his girlfriend. The film keeps a documentary feel with dialogues largely improvised and most of the cast made of non-actors from Jones’ entourage. The naturalistic camera furthers the realist feel with close hand-held shots, mixed with a soulful score, contemplative, slow-motion moments and an editing that grows increasingly experimental as the film progresses. True, it’s not exactly the type of film you’d usually see at Fantasia. It’s not the type of visceral experience you’ll get have often, point-blank.
— Stephanie Trepanier