The Big Hit: a subversive comedy that humanises prison inmates

Opening at Showroom Cinema on Friday 1st July is The Big Hit; a French comedy-dramabased on actual events where disillusioned, divorced, and out-of-work actor Étienne (Kad Merad) accepts an art rehabilitation role.

Étienne, runs a theatre workshop in a prison. Working with prison inmates, Étienne is surprised by the talent which emerges from his workshops and decides to take a risk on the colourful convicts to create a production. Under the wary and watchful eye of the warden, Ariane (Marina Hands) Étienne draws out the inmates' unearthed expressions for a performance of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. To the surprise of many doubters, the play's existential themes and repetitive rituals prove a natural fit for the inmate's theatre troupe. The colourful band of inmates are allowed to step outside of their prison to perform on stage to crowds and each new date is a success. Soon comes the final performance in Paris. Will their last night together be the biggest hit of them all? 

With a large ensemble cast this film has a lot of ground to cover and that includes giving us the Beckettian experience. Talking about The Big hit, director Emmanuel Courcol said that he wanted to create the same experience as in Samuel Beckett’s work and advocate for theatres as spaces to escape. He elaborated: “I want for it to question us without didacticism on the necessity of confinement and the liberating power of culture”, offering the inmates an opportunity to draw parallels between the story in the play and their lives, and reflect on their past. The Big Hit humanises the prison inmates through its storytelling. The cinematography throughout the film is unique in the way it stays light by uses dynamic shots - rather than the handheld shots and subdued lights typical of filming in a prison environment. Here the attention is on the people, their expressions and revelations.  

The Big Hit was selected as the opening film of this year's French Film Festival UK and was the winner for Best Comedy in the 2021 European film awards.  

It is opening at Showroom Cinema on Friday 1st July. Tickets are now on sale 

This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on Thursday 30 June 2022.

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