Action has been called once again on David Leon’s film Orthodox, which impressed the short film circuit last year. Having premiered the 25-minute piece at the London Film Festival 2012, the film’s writer and director, Newcastle-born David, who millions of viewers will recognise as DS Joe Ashworth from ITV1 crime drama Vera, has returned again to his Tyneside roots for a three-week shoot, which will turn the short into a feature-length offering.
Sunday offered the first day on location in Newcastle for the stellar cast including Stephen Graham (This Is England, Snatch, Boardwalk Empire); Michael Smiley (Kill List, Perfume, Luther); Giacomo Mancini (Top Boy); and Chris Fairbank (Pirates of the Caribbean, Auf Wiedersehen Pet), who have all signed on with Zeitgeist Films to flesh out the dramatic tale.
The film, which will use 70% of the footage from the original short, tells of Benjamin (Graham), an Orthodox Jewish boy who is persecuted and bullied for his faith and turns to boxing as a means of self-defence.
In adulthood, alienated from his Jewish community because of the choices he made earlier in his life, he finds himself tangled in a web of unlicensed boxing and criminal activity which land him in jail.
And although on his release Benjamin finds a way back to his community through his old boxing gym, a devastating truth from his past offers a catalyst for a series of events which ensure he can never achieve the normal life he craves.
David, who won the Best Narrative Short award for his film Man and Boy at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and was named as Screen International’s Star of Tomorrow in 2012, said: “The world that these characters inhabit is so rich it’s always seemed like a natural canvas for a film.
“Benjamin is a man caught between two worlds, the Orthodox Jewish community and mainstream life, yet the challenges he faces are much like those that we all have to confront. Through the decisions he makes he becomes an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.”
Producer Daisy Allsop added: “Thanks to the support of our original cast and the positive reaction to the short, we are excited to be expanding the film to feature length and watching these characters evolve.”
While Orthodox is the current focus for David, the next project on the production line, the 1980s-set feature Driven – recently shortlisted for the 2013 Brit List of screenplays to watch out for – will see him back on home turf again.