Interview: Sally El-Hosaini
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Picking up the Best Cinematography gong at Sundance is not something that most filmmakers can expect from their first feature film. But then, most may not have the steely determination of Writer/ Director Sally El-Hosaini. Hosaini’s debut feature My Brother the Devil tells the story of brothers Rashid (James Floyd) and Mo (Fady Elsayed), and their relationship over one summer on a Hackney council estate. Filmed in 2011 at the height of the London Riots, Sally had previously found the task of convincing people of the value of another film about ‘youth in Hackney’ difficult. The Riots breaking out on the first day of filming, though, cemented in her mind how essential the project was. “As a filmmaker one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is persistence,” she says. “We got a lot of rejections making My Brother the Devil, and it has to kind of empower you to go out there and want it even more. “It’s like you’ve got to take all the noes and rejections and turn them into something positive. You think, “I’ve got to show everyone who rejected this project what an amazing film it is.” With a host of awards, including that at Sundance and Best European Film at Berlinale, it certainly seems like Sally has done just this – although speaking to her, it seems unlikely that she would ever shout about it. She cites her (extremely down to earth) influences as her mum (“for making me feisty”), as well as numerous poets (“I tend to like the female ones that are a bit moody, like Anne Sexton”) and “millions of directors that I love that inspire me constantly.” Predictably, Sally is a busy woman. After completing her UK publicity engagements for the 18th March DVD release, she is off to the US in time for the film’s North American premier. The film will air in New York on 22nd March and Los Angeles on 5th April, before being rolled out in 12 other cities across the country. The pressure must surely be on for her next film – a project she is apprehensive to shed light on, other than revealing that it is “another London film” but set in “a different world to My Brother the Devil.” “Any filmmaker who said they weren’t worried about that after their first film has been successful would be lying,” she says. But still, she has a harder act than most to follow... She says: “The biggest lesson for me was that My Brother the Devil took six years to make. And I didn’t rush it and that’s what I’m trying to focus on at the moment. I’m writing something now and I’m trying to apply similar methods to this one.” Sally is quick to admit that she enjoys making films about people on the margins of society – those who may find themselves feeling forgotten. She says: “I think the riots maybe just reminded everybody why it’s important to have a film about youth in general that understands or shows things from their perspective.” Her dual heritage, being the child of a Welsh mother and an Egyptian father, is probably one of the reasons behind her interest in marginalised people, she says. “When you’re mixed you can see two sides of something, or lots of different perspectives at the same time so that helps you.
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