Co-director, writer and star, George Basha, teams up with Aussie legend, David Field, for the pair’s second collaboration, the explosive jail drama, ‘Convict’.
It’s been over four years since veteran character actor, David Field (Chopper, Two Hands), made his directorial debut with then-new actor and writer, George Basha, on The Combination. Delving into the relations between Lebanese Australians and Anglo Australians in parts of Western Sydney, the film dared to shed light on the simmering racial tensions that boiled over into incidents like 2005’s Cronulla riots.
While completely different narrative-wise, the pair’s follow-up feature, Convict, is just as gritty and hard-hitting. War hero Ray (Basha) returns home, but soon finds himself thrust into jail, found guilty of the manslaughter of an armed young man while defending his fiancé. In prison with an eighteen month sentence, Ray’s challenged both physically and mentally by his sadistic prison boss (played by Field). From there, the curtain is raised on the issues of the prison system: corruption is ubiquitous, gangs harm each other, drugs are sold among the prisoners, racial relations are at a high and sexual abuse touches every person behind the walls.
The film marks Basha’s first directorial credit, with the actor sharing duties behind the camera with Field, as well as penning the screenplay. Set in the now closed Parramatta prison built by original settler convicts, Convict makes no effort to hide the realities behind the walls of the institution. “Ray is an SAS soldier who’s seen it all, but as he enters prison he quickly realises that this is a whole new jungle,” Basha tells FilmInk, following a recent press screening of the film. “You don’t know who is going to shank you in the back any minute or where the next hit is going to come from or who to trust. The staff play on his mind and he starts believing stuff that isn’t happening and starts getting broken down as he finds his human side.”
Field plays the harsh and cruel controller of the prison, embodying the characteristics that have made his former roles so memorable. Co-directing with Basha, the two opposing characters’ confrontational scenes are among the best in the film with Field calling his character a “sadistic piece of work”.
Basha, speaking of his inspiration and reason for writing the film, says, “I have family in prison, I have a lot of friends in prison, I have family that have done time, so the prison subject to me is something sensitive. Every time someone talks about it, I relate because I know people in there and I wanted to show what prison life, for these young men, is actually like.”
Filmed in what is believed to be the first feature film set almost entirely in Australia’s oldest serving correctional centre, executive producer, John Tedesco, says the set made it seem all the more real. “When we did the shoot we found two shivs [the prison term for handmade makeshift knives] in the prison, hidden in cells which showed the chilling reality of prison we were trying to capture.”
Convict will be released in select cinemas from January 21.
Originally published on FilmInk Magazine online, December 17, 2013.
Below is the trailer for Convict: