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British duo dive into Muslim milieu

'Britz,' 'Brick Lane' tackle controversial subject

Talk about unflinching.

A pair of British film and TV productions are jumping headfirst into what it means to be a Muslim living in Blighty in a post-9/11 and -7/7 world.

“Britz,” a two-part skein that premiered Oct. 31 on pubcaster Channel 4, tells the story of a Bradford born Muslim brother and sister, one recruited by MI5 to help foil potential fundamentalist terror plots, the other enlisted to become a suicide bomber. On the bigscreen, Sarah Gavron‘s adaptation of Monica Ali‘s bestselling book “Brick Lane” — about a Bangladeshi woman’s struggles after she arrives in London for an arranged marriage –bows Nov. 16 in the U.K.

Both projects sparked early — and angry — dissent.

Even before airing, “Britz” was attacked by the British Muslim Forum as “sowing hate and division in our communities, and reinforcing negative stereotypes.”

And last year, residents of London’s Brick Lane, which boasts a large Bangladeshi community, succeeded in preventing Gavron’s pic from lensing on location in protest at what they felt to be a derogatory portrayal of them.   

The vocal protests were also rumored to be the reason behind the decision to pull the pic as the Royal Film Performance, which Prince Charles was due to attend. It eventually preemed at the London Film Festival.

“Britz,” for its part, plunges into the debate about terrorism and draconian anti-terror legislation.

“I was trying to understand how it could be that a group of people born and brought up here and were British could be so angry and alienated that they would strap explosions to themselves and blow themselves up,” says director Peter Kosminsky in reference to the 7/7 London bomb attacks of 2005, when a group of British Muslims detonated suicide bombs on London’s public transport system. “Unless we make an attempt to understand then we have no way of preventing it from happening again.”

“Brick Lane” doesn’t deal explicitly with the war on terror but does look at the internal clashes within British Muslim communities between moderates and extremists.

But the creative teams behind both productions aren’t letting early resistance get in the way of efforts to encourage dialogue.

“In both cases, there’s an ambition to celebrate a culture and get to the heart of something,” says Film4 topper and “Brick Lane” exec producer Tessa Ross. “You keep doing it even in the face of any battles if you believe the question is worth asking.”

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