INTERVISTA ALLA REGISTA:
My Brother The Devil is set in Hackney, where Sally now lives, and tells the stories of two Muslim brothers – aged 14 and 19 – who are members of a “postcode gang”.
“It’s an urban drama,” she says. “Nowadays, what’s happening with the kids is that the gangs aren’t necessarily ethnically delineated the way they are in America, for example. It’s all about what postcode you live in, and on a more practical level, it’s down to what council estate you’re from and what block you live in.
“So you’ve got gangs of kids who are now wearing their postcodes on their hats, tattooing their postcodes on their arms and necks. It’s multiculturalism at its best, because you’ve got white kids with Sudanese, with Arab kids, Afro-Caribbean origin kids – all British but completely mixed gangs and they just happen to have grown up together in one block.
“It’s really sad, some of the kids that I met only really feel safe on four or five streets, because if they go into someone else’s territory it’s quite dangerous for them. There’s been a lot in the press in Britain about knife crime and gun crime, but what people don’t realise is, it’s just wanting something that belongs to them.”
It is this sense of self that Sally is keen to explore with her film. Recently there has been a rash of television dramas about Muslim youngsters, frequently showing them on the brink of radicalism, such as controversial Channel 4 drama Britz, which portrayed two Muslim siblings, one who joined MI5 and the other who embraces terrorism. Although not talking about any specific programme, Sally says this tendency to show Muslims as one-note is “really dangerous”.
“They’re using really broad brushstrokes, so they’re looking at is as though it’s black and white – either you’re secular or religious and, therefore, you’re either good or evil. But in my feature I’m trying to explore the grey areas and really find the voice of the individual,” she says.
“In the case of the two boys in my story – they’re British Muslim Arabic origin boys – my thinking is that it doesn’t always lead to the kind of extremism that the media tells you it does and, in some ways the greatest threats that face these children aren’t the fundamentalism, it’s the violence on the streets – the drugs, the gangs and the poverty.
“Sadly their parents are holding down two, often three, jobs, so the world of the parents just isn’t around. So it’s a world of children that inhabit the streets. They’re searching for a sense of family. That’s why these gangs are their families, these are their brothers and it’s about belonging.
“We’re always told, ‘Watch out for disaffected Muslim youths, they’re a big terror threat.’ But a lot of the disaffected Muslim youths I know in Hackney or from lower income families are relatively apolitical. They largely oppose Britain’s involvement in Iraq or say, ‘I hate America’ but when you actually speak to them about what that means, they don’t really have the argument behind it and even those factors don’t make an extremist. All they’re really concerned about is playing PlayStation and what trainers and mobile phones they’re going to buy.
“I think the feedback I’ve been getting from those who’ve read the script is that what people like about My Brother The Devil is, although we’ve been talking about these quite big subjects – terrorism, the war on terror, being Muslim, being Arabic and the gang thing, which we all know about – the script really isn’t about those things. It’s actually the story of two brothers, it’s really about their family, about their parents and about their friends.” (http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/)