×

10 Directors to Watch: Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah Bring Street Cred to Belgian Cinema

The Belgian duo draw from their Moroccan roots, attracting Hollywood attention with flashy third feature 'Gangsta.'

El Arbi and Fallah were the only two Moroccan-born students in their Belgian film school. While their white peers aspired to fine art, they dreamed of Hollywood.

Inspired by gritty crime dramas with a fondness for spectacle, the pair took to the streets with cameras. They made a feature, a short, some TV and in 2015, they won the Toronto film festival’s Discovery Award for their second feature, “Black,” a streetwise spin on Romeo and Juliet, set in Brussels.

Their latest, “Gangsta” (AKA “Patser,” which is Flemish for “show-off”), is in post-production. A humorous drug-deal-gone-bad caper in the Guy Ritchie vein, it plays like “Amélie” on crack.

“We got a lot of help from the city of Antwerp on this one,” El Arbi says. “We’re lucky they don’t read the scripts, because the city gets trashed. People don’t realize that Antwerp is worse than what we depict.”

They fuse amped-up visuals with authentic, marginalized characters — mostly played by real-life street people. The duo are determined to expand Belgian cinema: “As Moroccans, we have a negative image that we have to prove wrong. It’s a fight that every immigrant faces,” El Arbi says. “Our movies are for a generation who doesn’t have dreams. We want to give them a voice.”

But working in Belgium is just the beginning: They hope to make their first American movie in 2018. They are developing projects with Jerry Bruckheimer, including “Beverly Hills Cop 4.” starring Eddie Murphy. The question is which one will get funded.

“We’d love to do ‘Bad Boys 3,’ ” El Arbi says. “That’s right up our alley.” Or a “Star Wars”-level blockbuster, infused with their offbeat, multi-cultural mix.

“Adil and Bilall: in-your-face, entertaining, next-level shit,” Fallah quips. “Hopefully, that will be the brand. Plus, we’re two Moroccan Muslims who aren’t about terrorism, so it’s awesome.”

Influences: Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone
Agents: CAA
Manager: Management 360
Lawyer: Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein

More Film

  • 'Patrick Melrose' TV show premiere

    Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy to Star in 'Louis Wain'

    Benedict Cumberbatch (“Avengers: Endgame”) and Claire Foy (“The Crown”) are set to star in “Louis Wain,” a biopic of the prolific English artist who rose to prominence at the end of the 19th century. “Louis Wain” will start shooting on Aug. 10 with BAFTA-nominated Will Sharpe (“Flowers”) directing the film, which was written by Sharpe [...]

  • Production Resumes on 'Fast & Furious

    'Fast & Furious 9' Production Resumes, Investigation Into Stuntman Injury Under Way

    Production resumed Tuesday on “Fast & Furious 9,” a day after an accident at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, near London, left a stuntman in hospital. The U.K. agency responsible for workplace safety confirmed that it is now investigating the accident. The stuntman, Joe Watts, was working on a second unit when he sustained head injuries [...]

  • mother

    Director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: Africa Is ‘In the Process of Becoming’

    DURBAN–From the arresting opening sequence, in which the reflection of a woman carrying a giant wooden cross shimmers across the surface of a lake, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s “Mother, I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You” embarks on a poetic journey across an unnamed African landscape. Described by the filmmaker as a “lament,” [...]

  • Promise at Dawn Calcoa

    Colcoa French Film Festival Moves to the Fall With Revamped Format

    Colcoa, the Los Angeles-based French film festival, will be hosting its 23rd edition in September, right before the start of the awards season. Created by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, Colcoa will also be showcasing a more contained lineup focused on film and TV at the Directors Guild of America’s newly-renovated venue. The festival was previously [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen-Codirected 'Western Stars' Film Will Premiere in Toronto

    “Western Stars,” the film that Bruce Springsteen has made to accompany his recent album of the same name, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was announced Tuesday. The feature is being listed as a co-directing project between Springsteen and his longtime filmic collaborator, Thom Zimny, who just picked up [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone and Braden Aftergood Balboa

    Sylvester Stallone's Production Company Wants to Be the Blumhouse of Action Films

    “I don’t believe Sylvester Stallone carries around a wallet,” says Braden Aftergood, the executive in charge of scripted development at the movie star’s content company Balboa Prods. It’s not that Sly, as he’s known to friends and fans alike, is trying to duck out on a dinner bill. He never seems to have his license [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content