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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [July 21, 2012]



[]  Two young sisters, working-class Polish immigrants, were living in Glasgow, Scotland. One of them went off to work in a fish processing plant -- and disappeared. Her sister went to investigate...

Graders is a horror film about a factory that kills its workers for their organs. Kidneys go high on the black market. Hearts bring an even better price. Economic inequality is a growing and contentious issue in both Europe and the U.S. People are losing their homes and jobs and savings. In Graders, they're also losing their organs to the 1% with cash and connections.

"Power corrupts," said writer/director David Hutchison to the Hollywood Investigator. "You can see this in the UK by looking at the bankers and politicians. Economic divide is getting worse in the UK and Graders reflects this."

With its theme of economic exploitation, it makes sense that Graders's protagonists are immigrants (played by two Polish immigrant actresses), who are often (though not always) among the lowest on any nation's economic divide. Hutchison knows their plight. He was once an immigrant himself.

"Originally I was going to set it in Australia, where I had been an immigrant worker for a year," said Hutchison, "but I couldn't afford to. I also worked as a fisherman and then in a seafood factory in the Scottish Highlands, so used this experience. We need more immigrants in Scotland. The population is getting older and we need a new, younger workforce.

Graders is shot in a documentary/vérité style (shaky camera; what looks like some improvised acting; naturalistic vignettes depicting life on the assembly line). The lighting is also naturalistic, using whatever light sources are available. This lends the film an authentic, if inconsistent, look -- the harsh incandescent yellow in the boss's office, the glaring fluorescent white on the factory floor, the warmer glow outdoors. "I do like dogme and vérité," said Hutchison,"but I'm not following any rules. I think hand-held gives immediacy and energy. It was also much quicker to shoot with."



Rumors have long persisted about corrupt organ donation procedures. The urban legend of waking up in a bathtub full of ice and a kidney missing. The fear that doctors might allow critical patients to die if a rich or powerful person needed an organ. The medical community worries that such rumors and urban legends discourage people from becoming organ donors. Is Hutchison concerned that Graders might lessen organ donations?



"Graders is science fiction," says Hutchison, "so I don't see it altering people's position on organ donation. Personally, I think it should be an opt-out. Unless one specifically states that they don't want to donate organs, the default is it that they do. Agnieszka, who played Celina, actually had to reschedule a shoot to do an acting gig to help raise funds for a girl to have a heart operation. So ironic, as Celina is killed for her heart."



Hutchison means Agnieszka Bresler. Joanna Kaczynska plays Ania, the sister in search of Celina. Kaczynska turns in a sympathetic performance. Greg Drysdale is appropriately creepy as Lem, the factory bosses' henchman who does all the dirty work.

Despite its grit, Graders introduces a supernatural element. Ania occasionally sees Celina's ghost. Or is it all in her mind? Then there's that weirdo in the forest...


Thematically, Graders echoes Coma (organ theft), They Live (economic exploitation), and several films about people waking up in a bathtub full of ice with one less kidney (Urban Legends: Final Cut). But Hutchison cites his influences as "Val Lewton's work. Giallo. Anything by Dario Argento, Mario Bava, David Cronenberg. The Wicker Man was set in the same area as Graders."

Graders was shot on a Canon 550D DSLR and edited on Premiere CS5. He says the film was very low budget and self-financed. "This is my first feature. I started off in experimental video installation, then animation for children's Gaelic TV, then mobile. I have a post grad in electronic imaging and an MA in screenwriting." He is currently raising money for another horror film, Baobhan Sith.


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