Walthamstow director Riyad Barmania introduces his new film
In 1981 a mythical arcade game, Polybius, supposedly appeared with the ability to control people’s minds, but along with it came mysterious side effects, including reported fatalities.
It was rumoured to be part of a government-run psychology experiment, with the machines visited periodically by ‘men in black suits’ until it was pulled from the market and never heard of again. This cryptic urban legend served as inspiration for my new feature film Ashens and the Polybius Heist.
I’m a long-time resident of Walthamstow and the co-writer, director and producer of the film. A comedy heist adventure, it’s inspired by great heist films such as Ocean’s 11 and Rififi as well as the Eighties movies I watched growing up. Lead actor and co-writer Stuart Ashen is a YouTube star with 1.5 million subscribers and stars alongside some of the UK’s biggest online talent, as well as legendary television actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten of Red Dwarf fame).
When making this film it was important to me to showcase the borough that I’ve grown to love. In 2013, for our first movie Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild, we filmed at Waltham Forest Assembly Hall – a truly stunning building. This time again we shot a good number of scenes across Walthamstow, something I’m very proud of.
My excellent local pub Ye Olde Rose and Crown served as multiple locations in the film, including (unsurprisingly!) a pub but also as a rich man’s living room, a hacker’s office, and a secret warehouse. We filmed both a comic book convention and a casino scene in the fantastic Walthamstow Trades Hall, as well as hiring a car dealership near the North Circular. After filming, the cast and crew could often be found at Collab Burger, and I even got to introduce them to the joys of coffee and pastries from L’Hirondelle in Hoe Street. It was really satisfying to share some of what I love so much about Walthamstow with the team!
An amazing grassroots crowdfunding campaign raised £150,000 towards the film, almost 70% of the production budget. Crafted over seven years, the ambition and scope of this project is not something you usually see from a fully independent production. We shot using the same type of camera used on the biggest films in the world, had more than 450 visual effects shots, and worked with the biggest post-production houses in the world; no expense was spared in bringing this amazing story to life.
It’s a funny, entertaining film with a real heart to it – perfect to watch during these strange times. Just remember to keep an eye out for local landmarks!
Ashens and the Polybius Heist is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, GooglePlay and YouTube: