Brit Sally El Hosaini’s first feature “My Brother the Devil” mixes, class, race and gender issues in it’s dark coming-of age story set in the disadvantaged council estates in the Hackney area of London.
Good student Mo (Fady Elsayed) lives with his traditional Egyptian family, hard-woeking immigrant Abdul-Aziz (Nasser Memarzia) and mother Hanan (Amira Ghazalla). He shares a room with bad-boy older brother Rashid, who runs drugs for the neighborhood gang DMG (Drugs, Money, Guns).
Rashid, a promising boxer, saves his money for college and ritually slips some of his filthy lucre into his mother’s wallet for groceries. He doesn’t know how it’s going to happen but he dreams of a life outside of Hackney. At night, he sneaks his loyal girlfriend Vanessa ( the beautiful Elarica Gallacher) into his room, and Mo listens to their regular lovemaking.
Mo idolizes Rashid and his G-friends. Eventually Rashid sends him on a low-level “food” delivery but the neighboring gang steals the drug, money and his sneakers. Protective Rashid forbids him to get involved.
A gang fight over the theft kills Rashid’s best friend Izzi (Anthony Welsh-“Red Tails”). Rashid starts to pull away. He bonds with Izzi’s pot customer, French-Arab photographer Sayyid (Saïd Taghmaoui-“La Haine”,”Traitor”).
Rashid tries to get a corporate job, but no CV won’t cut it, as the smarmy interviewer explains. Assigned to execute the rival gang boss, Rashid clinches. Soon he’s left the gang and working as Sayyid’s assistant, and exposed to a world he didn’t know existed.
His former gang members don’t want to let him go. Suspicious of his new friend one explains, “He ain’t road, he ain’t bling, He’s got a classy swagger.”
The resentful gang lures eager Mo into the game. As Mo loses his brother to his new life, he turns to the corrupting military structure of DMG.
Sayyid overcomes Rashid’s homophobia, a product of his traditional culture. Mo follows Rashid to Sayyid’s studio and discovers that the two are lovers. Shocked and in denial, Mo begins making excuses for his missing brother spreading the rumor that his involved in terrorist activities.
Rashid confronts him. “I’d rather have a brother who’s a bomber than a homo.” Mo confesses to tormented Rashid.
Floyd, a multi-racial actor with Tamil, Singaporean and Welsh-Scottish-British roots is a charismatic lead; even more impressive is Fady Elsayed’s sensitive nuanced perf.
Letitia Wright makes her mark as new neighbor Aisha, a Muslim girl, whose self-discipline inspires Mo. Aaron Ishmael creates a memorable best friend, the white, street smart Jamie.
El Hosaini subverts audience expectations with some interesting left turns. Strong realistic settings and expressive cinematography raise this above the pack of US and International films about the Gangsta life. She also avoids the melodramatic ending familiar from Warner Brothers 30’s crime classics to create a believable portrait of brotherly bonding.
Director of photography David Raedeker’s unadorned poetic lensing, featuring unexpected camera set ups, plus El Hosaini’s eye for intimate telling details transcends the irritating street slang.
The film snagged many awards including Best European Film, Berlinale, 2012, Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival 2012, Director El Hosaini won Best Newcomer at the BFI London Film Festival. Leads James Floyd won Best Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards and Best Actor at the Milan Film Festival. Novice actor Fady Elsayed was nominated for Best Newcomer at the BFI London Film Festival.
Right. I’d be right chuffed if I never heard another chav chancer use “Cuz or “init” again.