10 February 2013


I wasn’t going to feature Painkiller on Kuriositas as it is a little more extreme in some ways than the short films we normally show in terms of language and violence.  Yet since I watched it a week or two it has had what I can only call a resonant effect on me, by which I mean I keep recalling moments from the film not to mention the fact I have been trying to work out where its moral center lies – it certainly has one but I am unsure of its exact geography!  Perhaps it is up to the individual to decide that.

For many of us who live in urban areas, Painkiller centers around one of our worst nightmare scenarios – to be caught up in the middle of a holdup in a grocery store.  Yet for would be robber, the savvy and street wise Dominic, one customer, Jay, presents something of a surprise - and a problem.  I won’t give any spoilers here apart from that teaser but it is something which makes this black comedy a much more complex issue-driven film than you might expect.

Although five actors are given credit this is really a two-header between the main protagonists, Dominic and Jay.  Benedict Wong is moving and full of pathos as the pained taxi-driver Jay.  You may recognize his face from any number of British dramas such as Spooks, Top Boy, The IT Crew and Law and Order (UK)

Yet the film belongs to young Gambian-British actor Franz Drameh (left) who you may have caught in Attack the Block.  He gives an assured, enigmatic performance as the confident yet ultimately sympathetic Dominic – a sociopath with a sociable side.  This short film promises great things for and from him in the future.  One can only hope that the number of roles for young black actors in the UK increases as otherwise we will probably see him putting on an American accent in a prime-time US show.

Painkiller is a BBC Writersroom and B3 Media commissioned short film. BBC Writersroom identifies and champions new writing talent and diversity across BBC Drama, Entertainment and Children's programmes, here represented by writer Selina Lim and director Mustapha Kseibati.  Painkiller was produced by Michael Berliner of Pico Pictures, a London-based film production company.