Director – Aleem Khan – 2014 – UK – Cert. – 17m 11s
A teenager must take care of his two brothers when their father vanishes – available as an extra on the After Love Blu-ray released on Monday, August 23rd
It’s not entirely clear what’s happened to London teenager Hamid (Zain Muhammad Zafar) and his two younger brothers Humza (Yousuf Hussain) and Billy (Muhammad Mujahid-Ali Shahzad). An opening family video complete with dropout at picture bottom shows the parental hassle of getting the three boys into the car for a trip, then mum (Sona Vyas) and dad (Kulvinder Ghir) driving, then – presumably – a car accident (because the picture cuts out) in which the mother is kiled (because she’s never seen again (apart from as a presence in a photograph). This is mashed up with footage of the brothers, most notably Hamid caring for his chicken and inspecting eggs he keeps in a little electric-powered hatchery device in his bedroom.
Neither parent is around and there are dire warnings on the phone from school about how this can’t go on. There’s a parents evening coming up, so Hamid takes the other two and sends them in to the classroom alone, but his teacher (Kate Russell-Smith) comes out and demands he stop walking away down the corridor and take off his mask.
Later, dad turns up in the car at home with suitcases bearing presents. The two younger boys are delighted to see him, but Hamid wants to know why he didn’t come back before the electric ran out. Later his brothers summon Hamid to the garden in time to see a fox running away from his dead chicken.
Watching the film in the wake of Khan’s subsequent debut feature After Love (2020), similar concerns are apparent. Whilst the father loves his kids, it’s also clear that as with the husband to his wife in After Love, he’s practised some sort of deception on them – Hamid finds a video camera with footage of his father and a new bride (Sidra Javed) at a Pakistani wedding – which has put the boys in an impossible situation. Just as the wife in After Love is not only experiencing grief and loss but also completely out of her depth dealing with the fact of her late husband’s other partner and home across the Channel, so these boys are not only experiencing grief and loss but also completely out of their depth caring for themselves and getting themselves to school (or not) as and when required. Hamid is trying really hard to do what he should as the eldest and look after his two younger brothers.
The fact that Hamid is able to care for his chicken and its eggs (until disaster strikes) suggests that whatever trouble he may have got into and whatever rules he’s broken to get himself banned from attending school, he is at heart a good kid who has simply been let down by a lack of parental supervision. Zafar’s performance is genuinely affecting, so it’s a great shame he’s not been cast in anything else since.
It’s a fascinating short because you can sense Khan feeling his way around both subject matter that fascinates him and all the processes and components of making a film. Watching this impressive piece, you can’t help but feel he might be capable of making a very interesting feature. And so it has proved.
Three Brothers is available as an extra on the After Love Blu-ray released on Monday, August 23rd.