By: Neil Mckenzie-Sutter

“An elder in one of the villages came up and he was very nervous. The rumours were that we were going to be leaving,” he said, “and I don’t want you to leave. We’re scared that the Americans are coming, we’re really frightened that they’re going to be taking over this sector,” said Paul Gross, talking about his experiences with the Canadian military in Afghanistan in 2010 at the Q&A after the March 15 screening of his movie Hyena Road, hosted by Innis College.

“And I remember thinking we should know something about this,” Gross continued. “We should know something about how well we’ve done.”

Hyena Road is set during the Afghanistan War and follows a group of Canadian military personnel who are focused on building a road through Kandahar Province, and Gross not only stars in but also directed and wrote the movie.

This is the second major war film Gross has directed/written/starred in after 2008’s Passchendaele, which focuses on the WWI battle of the same name. The idea for Hyena Road actually came from working with the Canadian military personnel involved in Passchendaele.

During the Q&A Gross talked about developing relationships with many of the soldiers and eventually travelling to Afghanistan in 2010 to take a tour of the Canadian military presence there. Gross latched onto the beginnings of a story, and returned to Afghanistan in 2011 to take 60 to 70 hours worth of footage, so the film is notable for having scenes in the actual war zone, although it was mostly shot in Jordan and Manitoba.

It’s low budget compared to some U.S. war films, but Gross never stretches his resources and his occasional use of shaky-cam in some battle scenes is reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s well-received The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Unfortunately Gross claims he isn’t interested in making future war movies.

“It’s just too much,” he said. “Although Adrienne Clarkson’s fixated on the Korean War. It’s just like, stop talking to me. Call someone else!”

It’s unfortunate because Gross seems to be well on his way to mastering the genre. I’d recommend Hyena Road any day.

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