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My Brudda ★★★★



Director: Ntando Brown

Cast: Junior Afolabi Salokun, Akiela Peters

To be a success, society encourages men to own high-value possessions to encourage outward admiration. Such objects may therefore become an extension of a man’s identity and self-worth, inadvertently fostering notions of inadequacy when the things are unattainable. My Brudda takes these widely held beliefs and subverts these tropes by capturing a riveting day in the life of Jamal as he drives around, epitomising this notion of success by being well-dressed in an envy-inducing car.

From an external perspective, Jamal has it all. However, My Brudda immerses itself within the car for most of the film’s 17-minute runtime, thus providing a fascinating character study and psychological perspective of Jamal’s life beneath the veneer. In France, there is a nickname for the men wearing dapper suits, the Gucci loafers, and the Rolex watches – Sapeurs. Whilst the sartorial dress of the sapeurs may be akin to the wealth managers frequenting the London streets of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, many of the sapeurs occupy menial jobs. The designer clothes worn provide them with a rock star status within their communities and indicate a shift to the established power dynamic. Similarly, Jamal dons a suit, wears a luxury watch, and cruises in his car seeking gullible youth to sell his merchandise. It is somewhat surprising and concerning to see how many school children within the film have £50 notes to make purchases during their interactions with Jamal.

Jamal is therefore selling a dream to the younger generation of an aspirational lifestyle beyond their means, thus embracing toxic masculinity. As a result, many of these younger boys may grow up disillusioned when their fantasy disconnects with the reality of the prejudicial society they inhabit and may seek to make money by any means necessary. As such, the poverty and toxic cycles perpetuate. Junior Afolabi Salokun (of Blue Story fame) impressively conveys this perceived notion of black masculinity as the hustler, Jamal, striving for opportunities beyond the confines of his limited circumstances. Salokun’s expressiveness convinces as he reveals the emotions of the joy and the frustrations encountered within this lifestyle.

However, it is those moments when Jamal is effectively ‘off duty’, in the sanctuary of his car, and relinquishes the salesperson pattern that insights are gleaned. Director Ntando Brown quickly crafted a complex analysis using close-ups and taut editing. Jamal’s microcosm comprises him being on the receiving end of a tirade from his baby’s mother; he also appears indebted to others in the area. Still, Jamal maintains a modicum of compulsion by continuing his rituals. Being privy to his cleaning obsessions and fastidiousness whilst eating in outdoor luncheons unveils layers to his personality that are fascinating to observe beyond the superficial. Brown has therefore painted an inner portrait of a man seeking a semblance of control within his life but faces resistance from the external world. It is a compelling outlook assisted by Salokun’s dynamic performance but highlights a bleak scenario for many who attempt to escape their environment’s challenges.

My Brudda joins recent films, such as Pretty Red Dress, that examine the stereotypical construct of black masculinity. Seeing more British films receiving funding to represent these topics within black communities is pleasing. Hopefully, films such as My Brudda will continue to be tools shown within schools and districts as a positive springboard for the ongoing discourse concerning the lack of role models and the need to eradicate harmful stereotypes.

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