Film-maker and choreographer Lanre Malaolu says growing up on a Hackney council estate inspired his new Guardian documentary.


Revealing interviews are set against dynamic movement sequences, communicating their histories and emotions in a way that words alone could not. This imaginative film explores experiences of anxiety and depression while uncovering love and vulnerability in a close-knit community

The film-maker and choreographer says growing up on a Hackney council estate inspired his new Guardian documentary

The Circle explores the lives of two black brothers, David and Sanchez, growing up in east London. Malaolu uses bold movement to mirror the emotional psychology of masculinity, mental health, stigma and the wider community. Set within the environment of the brother’s housing estate, the film takes an innovative approach to storytelling, dividing the screen between movement and interview, choreography and real life.

Why did you decide to make this film?

There’s a view that society has of young black men from working-class backgrounds who live on council estates. The media, for example, often focuses on the negative connotations and crimes committed by some of these young men. That isn’t denying that crime can sometimes be an issue in some of these areas and should, of course, be combated. However, there are many young men in these environments who aren’t involved in any crime or negativity whatsoever. Yet they are still judged, not only by their surroundings but by their economic status, what they wear and the colour of their skin.

I made this film to show the reality of what it’s like for underprivileged, young black men growing up on a London council estate, not as being grim, but as an environment that’s full of youthful energy, strong family ties and camaraderie.

I also made this film because I am one of these men. I was born and bred in a council estate in Hackney (pre the cafes, hipsters and vegan fried chicken shops) and have seen and felt all the above, first hand.

Read the full Q&A here

Brothers in Arms