She never went to film school, and her debut movie about gay Arab gangsters was nearly derailed by real-life riots.
But last night Sally El Hosaini walked away with the Most Promising Newcomer crown at the London Evening Standard Film Awards.
The 32-year-old, who has Welsh-Egyptian parentage, was honoured for directing her first picture My Brother the Devil, which was six years in the making. The film about gun crime, sexuality and gangs had already earned her the best newcomer at the BFI London Film Festival last year.
During the London riots in the summer of 2011 she was testing cameras in Hackney, when violence erupted on the streets of the capital. She said the events “underlined” why she had remained committed to raising money for the film, adding that there had never been a time when an “honest depiction of this world and disenfranchised youth” was needed more.
Andrea Riseborough’s portrayal of an IRA terrorist in Shadow Dancer landed her the best actress award at the prestigious ceremony.
Heading off heavyweight competition from Daniel Day-Lewis and Eddie Redmayne, Toby Jones won the coveted Best Actor award for his performance in Berberian Sound Studio.
The Film of the Year was Sam Mendes’ Bond film Skyfall.
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