How riots broke out during My Brother the Devil filming

James Floyd and Fady Elsayed
Image caption The actors in My Brother The Devil worked hard to recreate the authentic feel of Hackney's streets

The day a film crew began production on Sally El Hosaini's debut feature film, trouble erupted in London.

My Brother The Devil was shot in Hackney, east London, in the summer of 2011 - as thousands were rioting.

But when the violence subsided, the team realised their film had created a strong relationship with the local community.

"Riots broke out in Hackney the day we did our camera tests," said El Hosaini.

"The riots meant there was a ban on shooting any exterior scenes with fights with youths and guns or knives. In all of London throughout the shoot! That prompted some quick rewrites."

Egyptian brothers

The film was mainly shot around the New Gascoigne estate, where a production office was set up, and the community became involved in the film's making, with many becoming extras.

But as violent scenes took over the crew had to shift filming temporarily to Wimbledon where they were forced to work on a studio set that looked like "a quaint country village".

Image caption El Hosaini used actor Aymen Hamdouchi as a script and language consultant on the film

El Hosaini said: "We managed to transform it overnight by making it look like Hackney - by boarding it up, repainting things - and then nobody could tell."

The film is a coming-of-age story about two young British Egyptian brothers growing up on the streets of London.

"When I first started working on the film it was immediately after the 7/7 bombings occurred," said the half-Egyptian director.

"The way Arabs - and Arab youths - were being portrayed in the media as some kind of terror threat bothered me. It didn't represent the Arab boys I saw around me every day.

"I decided to make a film that treated their lives honestly, and conveyed their struggles. I tried to capture the complexity of people and the intricacies of life on film."

Authentic Hackney

Drawing from her own experiences of living in Hackney for 10 years she said: "Keeping the film authentic was one of the most important things to me."

"Keep it Hackney" was her rallying cry to the actors.

Image caption The film shows representations of London's Egyptian community that are not often seen on screen

Actor James Floyd spent time hanging out on street corners: "I had five months to prepare. Call it method acting - but I spent time getting to know the language and learning how my character thinks."

The underbelly of Hackney was an inspiration for him: "Most of this movie is set in old Hackney - the Hackney where the riots happened, where there's different kinds of people and a lot of mischief."

She worked closely with Aymen Hamdouchi, who plays a gang member in the film, to capture the language of the street.

"I'm interested in people on the margins of society - outsiders and outcasts," says El Hosaini.

"I could see teenage boys hanging around my neighbourhood and they fascinated me, especially the Arab boys who had a cultural upbringing to which I could relate."

Personal struggles

The film's main theme is brotherhood and the relationship between a charismatic older brother and his younger sibling growing up in a traditional Egyptian household.

"At first I was interested in the gang as a surrogate family," says El Hosaini when she started working on the estate.

Image caption The actors immersed themselves in Hackney's street life

"But the more I got to know the boys the less interesting or important the trappings of their world became. I was drawn to their personal struggles and stories."

The film's authenticity has drawn praise from critics and its director won the Best British Newcomer Award at the London Film Festival last month.

Hackney's local community can decide what they think when My Brother The Devil opens in cinemas on 9 November.

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