El Housani is one of the past year’s breakout British filmmakers — according to the British Independent Film Awards and the Evening Standard British Film Awards — but she’s also “Welsh and Egyptian,” she reminds us. “So I can really empathize and understand perspectives from all sides.”
Her first feature, “My Brother the Devil,” does just that. Six years in the making and visually inspired by Terrence Malick and Gus Van Sant, the independent labor-of-love follows two Arab brothers in London’s lower-class projects. While familiar gritty issues such as drugs and violence erupt, the movie defies conventions, focusing more on “how the bonds of brotherhood can overcome prejudice,” she says.
El Housani got her start working on British TV docs set in the Middle East such as “Inside Sadaam’s Iraq” (“it was a great film school,” she says) and then script editing on BBC’s “House of Saddam.” As a production coordinator on British indies, she says she took notes on what not to do, such as coercing actors and wasting time and money.
Currently, she’s developing two new projects: a drama with Killer Films about Americans abroad based on a true story from the 1970s, and a BFI-backed “visually ambitious” movie set in London. The diversity of the two projects suits El Housani. “I see myself as an international person, and I’d love to make movies all over the world, whether Afghanistan or the U.S. or South America,” she says. “I’d love to make films about all kinds of people. And I’d love every film to be different from the last.”