WE ARE MONSTER
This slow burning drama focussing on the real life story of Zahid Mubarek who was brutally slain in his prison cell, the victim of a racially motivated hate crime, and how the warning signs many had noted but no-one acted upon could have prevented such a tragedy and the waste of a young life. Written by Leeshon Alexander, who also stars as Mubarek’s killer Robert Stewart, and directed by Antony Petrou it deals with the story from the interesting perspective of creating a good and bad personas for Stewart who are in constant battle with each other with his evil, twisted side often winning out against his own voice of reason.
Petrou wisely approaches this film as if it were a stage drama, allowing the tale to unfold as Stewart constantly confronts and challenges himself. It is interesting to note how his original ambivalence towards Murbarek reaches such a horrific conclusion as for most of the film his actual hatred is focussed elsewhere.
The fact that Mubarek is about to be released hours after he instead met a grisly end adds a poignancy to the whole situation especially when it is revealed his original crime was so minor-the theft of razor blades valued at less than £10- and members of staff had already expressed concerns regarding the situation which were duly ignored. When Mubarek himself asked to be moved because he feared for his safety he was dismissed and referred to as ‘a whining Paki’.
Alexander gives an intense slow burning performance as Stewart and the whole film captures prison life as a simmering pressure cooker which is always about to explode. The fact that it did in this particular situation is hardly surprising considering the lackadaisical approach of so many of the staff who are more concerned about being overworked and meeting targets than they are about the welfare of the prisoners. This is one issue which is raised but treated objectively without being overly judgmental. There is no bad ‘screw’ here whose twisted agenda resulted in this tragedy but instead a frustrated group of workers who merely follow rules and do the bare minimum they have to.
None of this will come as any consolation to Mubarek’s family who are still waiting for some form of justice and although there was an investigation, no-one was held accountable despite being twenty members of staff being found negligent. We Are Monsters does go someway towards answering some of these unanswered questions and does it by looking inside the twisted psyche of a racist hell-bent on extracting some form of revenge for the lack of love and understanding in his own tortured existence.