10 out of 10
Release Date: 9th November 2012
Director: Sally El Hossaini (Babylon (TV))
Cast: James Floyd, Fady Elsayed, Said Taghmaoui, Aymen Hamdouchi, Letitia Wright, Arnold Oceng, Anthony Welsh, Yusra Warsama, Malachi Kirby, Elarica Johnson, Amira Ghazallar with Ashley Thomas and Nasser Memarzia
Writer: Sally El Hossaini
Trailer: MY BROTHER THE DEVIL
Cashtastic – I Will Never Give Up: I WILL NEVER GIVE UP VIDEO – song from the film
My Brother The Devil is this year’s breakout film from what the media has tagged as the UK Urban flick. Giving a woman’s perspective on the testosterone heavy genre, Sally El Hossaini presents one of 2012’s freshest films. Set in the London Borough of Hackney, two first generation Egyptian brothers, Rashid (JAMES FLOYD – THE INFIDEL) and Mo (FADY ELSAYED) take each day as it comes. Rashid makes ends meet by running with the local drug dealers, keen to keep Mo’s nose clean and at a distance from his murk. Mo idolises his older brother and wants to be just like him but he’s a sensitive and smart boy who is definitley not cut out to survive in that world. Inspired to look for ‘real’ work by his friend Izzy (ANTHONY WELSH – RED TAILS), Rashid begins to distance himself from his friends. A violent clash with a rival gang is the deal breaker. Neighbourhood friend, French-Arab Said (SAID TAGHMAOUI – LA HAINE) offers a suitable yet unexpected way out but its lack of convention only upsets the apple cart for his friends and family.
Hiding the central theme of homosexuality is a strange step for a British movie makers to take. It feels like a backward one as well. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, films revolving around openly gay characters were exhibited at cinemas frequently. In fact, the UK was progressive in this way, pushing My Beautiful Laundrette, Prick Up Your Ears, The Crying Game, Alive & Kicking, Madagascar Skin and several Merchant Ivory titles at international festivals and local cinemas. That My Brother The Devil will only open at a handful of cinemas across the country, it’s hardly going to rake in a lot of money, or even get to play to homophobic audiences. This film probably won’t play in Mile End, Peckham or Stratford where the background events play out every day for real. So it only serves to irritate that the distributors chose to hide the major gay theme from the audiences. This is the 21st Century, fools. Anyway, back to the film itself….
In an environment that is hostile to virtually anything that doesn’t conform, homosexuality is probably top of the hit list. That a major drug dealer drops out of the game to embark on a clandestine gay affair with another former gang member is outlandish. It throws up many questions and they are dealt with convincingly and thoughtfully. The film could have dipped into melodrama many times but the story avoids this because of the investment of the actors in their characters. James Floyd and particularly first time Fady Elsayed are never less than authentic. They thoroughly sell to us the fact that they are brothers and have spent their lives together. Mo’s friendship with Aisha (LETITIA WRIGHT – VICTIM), a Black Muslim girl his own age is touching and dovetails nicely with Rashid’s affair, which is largely told off-screen. The only downside of this, is that we want to know more about Said’s past. But we only get pieces, for which we have to fill in the gaps. A small grumble that only exists because each element of the film is so interesting and you want to know everybody better. It’s telling that Mo would sooner his brother be a terrorist bomber than a ‘bummer’, obviously showing us the mountainous scale of homophobia that exists out there in the Endz.
The cinematography is summery and dappled in shade. It’s remarkable that the production coincided with the 2011 London Riots. The soundtrack is amazing, blending Egyptian guitars along with thoughtful R&B and Grime. I have included a link to a song by Cashtastic above this review, which features at a wonderful part of the film. You get a great sense of place, and geography of the neighbourhood from the roof tops of the tower blocks to the East End markets. The dialogue is a bang up to date mix of street slang which definitely roots this eternal tale in the ‘here and now’ but hopefully viewers won’t find it too bewildering. Other than that, everything about My Brother The Devil is perfect. It showcases, two wonderful young actors and I wish them success with their future roles / choices. The supporting cast are exemplary as well, many of them veterans of the UK Urban Flick like Arnold Oceng (VICTIM) a face to watch, Aymen Hamoduchi (who looks like a young Cliff Curtis) and the extremely talented Ashley Thomas (THE MAN INSIDE) as Rashid’s boss. He is all coldness and business. Flawless acting across the board.
Now you only have to read the Youtube comments to see the reaction to the decision to hide this film’s sexuality: I’ve cut and pasted a few for your enjoyment. Please grow up people. Love is where you find it.
“A real Arab would not turn into a queer like that. Just not real, man.” – Anon
“It was good until the guy turned into a gay. I was well pissed off.!” – Anon
“Batty man film. Boom Boom Bye!” – Anon
10 out of 10 – The perfect UK Urban Flick that throws a spanner in the works to make it a true original. Homophobes stay at home.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- James Floyd: Rearview, City of Tiny Lights, Everywhere + Nowhere, The Infidel, Tormented
- Fady Elsayed: Brotherhood, Sixteen
- Said Taghmaoui: Wonder Woman, The Missing (TV), The Infiltrator, American Hustle, Conan The Barbarian (2011), GI Joe, Vantage Point, The Kite Runner, I Heart Huckabees, Hidalgo, Spartan, The Good Thief, Three Kings, Hideous Kinky, La Haine
- Aymen Hamdouchi: 6 Days, iBoy, War Machine, Unlocked, Anti-Social, We Are Monster, Snow In Paradise, Dying of the Light, Sightseers, Green Zone
- Letitia Wright: The Commuter, Black Panther, Humans (TV), Urban Hymn, Victim
- Arnold Oceng: A United Kingdom, Brotherhood, The Good Lie, It’s a Lot, Victim
- Anthony Welsh: The Girl With All The Gifts, Second Coming, Starred Up, Comes a Bright Day, Red Tails
- Yusra Warsama: Last Days On Mars
- Malachi Kirby: Dough, Kajaki, Gone Too Far, The Last Showing, Offender
- Elarica Johnson: AfterDeath, Top Boy (TV), Eastenders (TV)
- Ashley Thomas: 24 (TV), 100 Streets, Brotherhood,, Top Boy (TV), Cockneys Vs. Zombies, The Man Inside (2012), The Veteran, Shank, 4-3-2-1
- Nasser Memarzia: The Devil’s Double, The Kite Runner