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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

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