January 24th, 2012

Sundance 2012: My Brother The Devil

Posted By Neil Matsumoto

Mo and Rash in My Brother The Devil

The best narrative feature I’ve seen so far at this year’s festival is definitely My Brother The Devil, which was directed by Sally El Hosaini, a Welsh/Egyptian screenwriter and director. The film is about two brothers growing up in a traditional Egyptian home in the rough Hackney section of London. The older brother, Rashid (James Floyd), is a member of a local gang. He sells drugs and goes to war against rival neighborhood gangs. Rash does his best to prevent his younger brother, Mo, from following in his footsteps by trying to make enough money to send him to college. When Rashid begins an unlikely relationship with a successful male photographer leaving the gang life behind, Mo, hurt and confused, tries to take his brother’s place in the gang. “It’s a journey from a kid and idol relationship, which is the spine and heart of the story,” says El Hosaini, in the film’s press notes. “Both brothers must face up to who they really are if they are to be able to love each other. So, ultimately it’s also about the courage it takes to be different, to be yourself.”

I’m betting My Brother The Devil will eventually be compared to Stephen Frear’s 1985 My Beautiful Laundrette, which also deals with a young man coming out while living in a traditional Pakistani family in London. But that is too easy of a comparison because My Brother The Devil has its own powerful and distinctive voice. For me, the film follows more in the tradition of some of the great films by British filmmaker Ken Loach (Kes, Poor Cow) in its gritty realism of British life not usually seen in movies.

The film was shot with both film and the ARRI ALEXA, although I could not determine which sequences were film or digital. Credit to cinematographer David Raedeker.

My Brother The Devil was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program’s Screenwriters Lab and Directors Lab. Along with Andrea Arnold, who also has a new film at the festival (Wuthering Heights), the U.K. has two new female auteurs with a bright future ahead.

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