UK, 2019, 100 mins
Director: Aneil Karia

+ Q&A with director Aneil Karia

Most people have thought about jumping the barriers at a train station, but the decision to act is what makes all the difference. Aneil Karia’s debut feature Surge is an examination of that decision, and what follows. From a routine life working in airport security, Joseph (a compelling Ben Whishaw), detaches himself from the rules of society and spirals out of control. Except, he is in control – or he is consciously unbridled, as he struts and runs down the streets of London, escalating his actions into the criminal. Why? We never quite know.

In the first act, we sense a simmering violence. Senses are overwhelmed. He bites down on a fork. Tilts his head slightly. Closes his eyes. He is a jigsaw piece in the wrong puzzle. It’s an effective, nuanced study of a man about to snap. Once he does, it’s a dreamlike rush in which anything seems possible – a series of logical leaps that feel oddly reasonable when we’re zoomed so far into one man’s frantic psyche. Of course you’d decide to rob a bank if the cash machine ate your card and you needed £4.99 for a cable to fix your colleague’s TV. Of course. Joseph tests the world’s boundaries with childlike curiosity. He gatecrashes a wedding like he’s walking through a museum and, in an exquisitely disquieting scene, calmly destroys the furnishings of a luxury hotel room. The act is chilling in its deliberation. Whishaw’s performance is beautifully detailed and unsettling. Joseph’s mannerisms, spasms, adrenaline breathlessness and inappropriate smiles become the film’s language, as the dialogue is very minimal. The story is slight too, though enriched by brief studies of Joseph’s parents, both proud and broken, enough for you to wonder if they’ve made him the way he is. Are we seeing Joseph finally, truly living? Although I was unconvinced by a sex scene with his colleague (a symbol of his newfound self-abandon, but it feels as though she is used – by him, by the film), and the lack of consequences for his actions reads as implausible, Surge is consistently engaging and disturbing. It seems uninterested in pathologising – rather pointing to a shared human condition: filling a desperate void. We sense that Joseph won’t be the last to reach this point of no return.
Naomi Obeng, Sight & Sound, June 2021

Rising star Aneil Karia

Who is he? A dynamic and unconventional director who grabbed attention in 2013 when his short film Beat blazed through the film festival circuit. Since then he has bounded fearlessly across shorts, music video and TV.

His background: Karia studied journalism and worked as a producer in TV news before landing a place at the National Film and Television School.

His films: Breakthrough short Beat is a visceral, challengingly ambiguous film that follows an unnamed character, played by Ben Whishaw, as he walks a fine line between euphoria and breakdown. Karia’s feature Surge (also starring Whishaw) develops that project, taking the audience on a psychic odyssey with a disenchanted airport security worker called Joseph. Both works channel a frenetic energy: ‘A lot of my filmmaking is a reaction to living in a huge pulsing organism like London, its mood and atmosphere is constantly shifting.’

Karia’s highly regarded work on the TV drama Top Boy led to hybrid music video project Trouble with veteran grime artist Kano. This, in turn, led to collaboration with Riz Ahmed on the terrifying, dystopic The Long Goodbye, in which a British Asian family is rounded up by the far right: it won a British Independent Film Award for best British short film this year. For Karia, the film felt urgent: ‘I thought: we can’t get this out quick enough but God only knows how it’s going to be received. And then we just had this amazing response, especially from the British South Asian community. It felt really important and moving.’
Sight & Sound, June 2021

Directed by: Aneil Karia
©: Banana Gun Films Limited, British Broadcasting Corporation, The British Film Institute
A Rooks Nest production
Developed with the assistance of: BBC Films
Developed with the support of: Creative England via the BFI Network
Made with the support of the: BFI’s Film Fund
Logo: National Lottery
Presented by: BBC Films, BFI
In association with: Protagonist Pictures, Split Prism Media
International Sales: Protagonist Pictures
Executive Producers: Rose Garnett, Eva Yates, Lizzie Franke, Will Norton, Dave Bishop, Isabelle Stewart
Produced by: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers
Co-producer: Scott O’Donnell
Line Producer: Tim Dennison
For Rooks Nest (Development & Production Executive): Amy Wells
For BBC Films: Head of Production & Finance: Michael Wood; Head of Legal & Business Affairs: Geraldine Atlee; Legal & Business Affairs Manager: Helen Giles; Production Executive: Emma Kayee; Developement Executive: Sam Gordon; Head of Communications: Emma Hewitt
For BFI: Production & Development Executive: Emma Duffy; Head of Production: Fiona Morham; Head of Production Finance: Ian Kirk; Director of Legal & Business Affairs: Clare Coulter
For Protagonist Pictures: Managing Director, Sales & Distribution: Vanessa Saal; Head of Sales: George Hamilton; Commercial Director): James Pugh; Director of Operations): Anne-Lise Fernandez; International Sales Manager: Charlotte Lopez
Production Manager: Anna Jancsó
Additional Production Manager: Robert K. Harm
Production Co-ordinator: Faye Robinson
Production Accountant: Eddie Kane
Unit Manager: Alex Waterhouse
Location Manager: Iain Smith
Post-production Supervisor: Nadiya Luthra
1st Assistant Director: Matthew Alder
2nd Assistant Director: James R. Kipping
Script Supervisor: Bhairavi Patel
Casting Director: Lara Manwaring
Screenplay by: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais
Story by: Aneil Karia, Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais
Director of Photography: Stuart Bentley
1st Assistant Camera: Adam Conlon
2nd Assistant Camera: Evelina Engberg Norgren
Gaffer: Bill Rae Smith
Best Boy: Christopher B. Broomfield
Key Grip: Lee Naylor-Vane
Stills Photographer: Will Grundy
Visual Effects Supervisor: James Allen
Visual Effects Executive Producer: Tom Johnson
Visual Effects Producer: Sean Ewins
Special Effects Supervisor: Scott McIntyre
Editor: Amanda James
1st Assistant Editor: Tommy Southgate
Production Designer: Alexandra Toomey
Art Directors: Simon Walker, Jenny Ray
Standby Art Director: Catiana Becker
Set Decorator: Charlotte Ball
Graphic Designer: Natalie Preston
Production Buyer: Georgia Carter
Prop Master: Rosie Halliwell
Costume Designer: Charlotte Morris
Make-up & Hair Designer: Lizzie Mair Davies
Make-up & Hair Supervisor: Sally Miura
Prosthetics Supervisor: Barrie Gower
Title Design: Tom Robinson, Stephen Ross
Colourist: Simone Grattarola
Original Music by: Tujiko Noriko
Music Supervisor: Bridget Samuels
Original Music Mixed by: Sam Britton, Will Worsley
Movement Coach: Laura Williamson Biggs
Sound Designer: Paul Davies
Production Sound Mixer: Nadine Richardson
Boom Operator: James Kum
Re-recording Mixer: Andrew Stirk
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Linda Forsén
Dialogue Editor: Morgan Muse
ADR Mixer: Nick Baldock
ADR Voice Casting: Phoebe Scholfield
Foley Recording/Editing: Andrew Stirk
Marine Co-ordinator: Edward Livett
Stunt Co-ordinator: Andy Bennett
Animal Handlers: Charlotte Wilde, Samantha Dent, Joanna Vaughan, Collette McKenzie
Publicity: Ian Thomson, Isabelle Knight

Ben Whishaw (Joseph)
Ryan McKen (Emre)
Victor Olamide (Vincent)
Jasmine Jobson (Lily)
Bogdan Kominowski (Danili)
Nish Nathwani (Jinaid)
Laurence Spellman (Scott)
Muna Otaru (Adaeze)
Perry Fitzpatrick (Bradley)
Michael Jenn (Gideon)
Ian Gelder (Alan, Joseph’s dad)
Robin Pearce (Leo, man in car park)
Ellie Haddington (Joyce, Joseph’s mum)
Isla Preston (5-year-old girl)
Daisy Frossard (mother of 5-year-old girl)
Stacha Hicks (Catherine, toiletries woman)
Filipe Donica (boy with water bottle)
Lucy Thackeray (Siobhan)
Nathan Clough (station guard)
Rod Silvers (tech shop owner)
Arunkumar Patel (convenience store owner)
Joanna Neary (customer in bank)
Yohanna Ephrem (Saanvi)
Farah Sardar (post office manager)
Haqi Ali (man speaking Urdu)
Hammed Animashaun (Durab)
Modupe Adeyeye (Mischa)
Danny Devall (man in hi-viz)
Zakiyyah Deen (hotel receptionist)
Chris Coghill (Hamish, best man)
Bradley Taylor (Patrick, groom)
Clare Joseph (Sarah, bride)
Kelly Wenham (Ellie, maid of honour)
James Walmsley (father of the bride)
Carol Holt (mother of the bride)
Imogen Daines (prissy wedding guest)
Anita Potter (wedding guest with wine)
Kieron Jecchinis (crash waitress)
Patricia Loveland (woman in car)
Dan Skinner (Theo, driver of car)
Finn Bennett (teenager at crash)
Matthew Moses (fruit and veg seller)
Ranjit Singh Shubh (bank security guard)
Josh Finan (Jermaine)
Binal Trivedy, Freya Trivedy, Sejal Jhalla, Asha Valera, Minnati Shah, Yana Patel, Kavita Amin, Donal Patel, Krupaa Vaghela (Indian dancers)

UK 2019 ©
100 mins

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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