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Heavy Weight – a short film about tensions within the boxing ring

Read our interview with Jonny Ruff and watch the film

Heavy Weight – a short film about tensions within the boxing ring
Image courtesy of BFI
Heavy Weight

Written by Chuku Modu and directed by Jonny Ruff, Heavy Weight sketches the story of a boxer who finds his world turned upside-down by the arrival of a new fighter at his club.

Starring Chuku Modu and Jace Moody, this is a fantastic short film, quickly establishing characters and tensions, and drawing us into the internal conflicts of two men who have met their match.

We spoke with director Jonny Ruff for a behind-the-scenes look at the film:

What was your inspiration for the story?

Chuku and I wanted to make a film together. There was a lot of back and forth about ideas, and this was one of Chuku’s that really stuck with me. It started with the question: ‘What if two guys in a boxing gym were attracted to each other?’ and took off from there.

What was the production process like?

It was an incredibly fast turn around. We started writing in January 206 and we were shooting by the end of March that year.

We shot it in two days and everything came together perfectly. The editing process took slightly longer, luckily we weren’t in any real rush at that point.

Was it difficult to raise the funding required?

I’m not sure what the entire budget was in the end, but it was relatively small. I think by the time we started shooting we had about £3,000 to play with. We begged, borrowed, and stole, as well as a few of us putting our own money in. I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who gave us their time as well.

What was the casting process like?

Chuku was always going to play the lead, so that was the easiest casting decision. I didn’t have a choice really! Then the rest was pretty straightforward. Chuku wanted Jace to play Connor. This was Jace’s first acting role, and I was sceptical initially, but as soon as I saw him read with Chuku, I was a little blown away actually, and very happy that I didn’t have to look any further.

What does your film say about internalised homophobia or repressed sexuality?

I think it says that it’s always going to be difficult when you realise something about yourself that you haven’t experienced before, and how your environment can effect you. In this case it’s an incredibly masculine environment. I believe it’s important to have a story that shows that masculinity and homosexuality aren’t at odds with each other.

Were the cultural differences between the two central characters important to the story, or was that adding depth to the personalities of the characters?

Chuku brought a lot of his experience from boxing in London, when he was younger, into the script. Irish travellers would come and go, and I think that makes the character of Connor really interesting. He can act without consequence as he isn’t rooted to that particular place.

What sort of feedback have you had on the film so far?

So far so good. I’ve been very thankful that people have watched it, let alone commented on it. When a story you’ve told really touches someone, it’s a beautiful feeling.

What do you hope that audiences feel when watching the film?

Without sounding cheesy, I hope they can feel the punches! It’s a brutal, yet tender love story at the end of the day.

Heavy Weight screened as part of the BFI Flare 2017 film festival in London and is being made available to audiences around the world by the British Council.

Read more from Gareth Johnson