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Tanya Khoury: Brother act
April 26, 2013
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Director Sally El Hosaini’s film My Brother The Devil has made its debut in a number of festivals here as well as abroad. I have only had a chance to view it recently (it has been given a limited release date) and being her first full feature, writer/director Hosaini surely has her hands full with this one. A story focused on society, family, religion, identity, like I said, hands full. Two brothers Rashid (James Floyd) and Mo (Fady ElSayed) live in Hackney with their parents. Rashid is the elder brother that Mo looks up to, idolises and wants to be exactly like. This is a neighbourhood that is controlled by gangs, so tough guy Rashid looks out for his little brother and does not want him to follow in his footsteps. The plot is not something we haven’t seen before but the direction, pace and editing play a bigger role that tends to compliment the story even more.

There is a lot to see and a lot to hear from the characters. The truth is this resembles the day-to-day lives of people in gang related areas. The struggles these kids have with being either away from school, getting a ‘real’ job and/or being there for their parents. The film focuses on the tradition inside the house versus what the streets presents. Opportunities that are found but automatically lost due to the kind of business the kids get involved with. What I felt was that the strongest part of the film was the acting, ElSayed’s character Mo is truly wonderful; such innocence presented in a character that goes though so much along with all the internal battles that he fights with shows on his face and characteristics. A very well cast for the role of the younger brother, he wants to be like Mo but the more you get into the story the more you realise that things are not at all as they seem.

I felt the filming focused a lot on angles through characters’ eyes; there is a lot of gangster style themes that come into play; fast paced shots that give the film that additional edge, as not only does the filming focus on one style throughout, the scenes and placements change when the boys are with the family versus them out on their own. Surely, there are a lot of scenes that I felt fell into the stereotypical trap but sometimes that cannot be avoided. Seeing it through an Arab person’s eyes makes me a little more critical to accents and culture sensitivities, but then again sometimes the filmmaker may just want to go with it. Also, this is a predictable story. This, however, shouldn’t turn you off from the film; on the contrary, the fact that it is predictable gives more room for creative exploration through the visual sense. I liked it; it’s not your run-of-the-mill kind of movie; there is a lot of character development that takes place as you watch. This is very interesting especially when you begin with a certain tough character like Rashid and see him break down in different formats the deeper you look.

I recommend this film to a lot of different audiences especially now, when independent cinema is starting to reach a lot more people. It is an honest story that sheds a lot of perspective on what is seen on the outside, the judgments and how a small nit society can literally make or break an individual. A solid feature film from this director and her team, 6.9/10.

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