Anthony Petrou’s We Are Monster not only explores the tragedy of racial hate and violence but also delves into what causes it, encourages it and fuels it. In March 2000, Zahid Mubarek was brutally murdered in his prison cell by the man he shared the space with. We Are Monster brings this true story to the big screen in an attempt to question the killer’s motives and challenge those who could have prevented this catastrophe and others like it. Racial hate is still prominent within our society, constantly in the news but not necessarily in the foreground of our minds. We Are Monster confronts the murder immediately, before backtracking over the events leading up to it. What is perhaps most harrowing is that there are no particular events to mention. Mubarek, played by Aymen Hamdouchi, does not feature prominently in the film’s narrative; only as a victim of both murder and circumstance. It is his killer, Robert Stewart who takes centre stage and whose actions are shown as the result of a troubled past, a lack of education and a severely fragile and disturbed mental state. Stewart is played by Leeshon Alexander but Alexander, in fact, takes on two roles. We Are Monster incorporates Stewart’s dark mental thoughts as an independent character. Alexander manages to create two sides of Robert Stewart, the inner and the outer, light verses dark; or perhaps dark verses darker.
We Are Monster would work really well on stage. The narrative all takes place within a prison with only flashbacks and memories allowing us to escape out of the grey walls. Performance and script both excel this film forward, making it one of the most courageous and troubling films of the year so far. We Are Monster is produced by two men who are both familiar with this type of performance. Jason Maza and Noel Clarke are both experienced with what it takes to portray the violence of youth on camera. Yet both actors take a step back, allowing Leeshon Alexander to reveal his force and power as a captivating and promising young actor. The film challenges Robert Stewart’s ideals and racist mindset but also points the finger at the negligence of those working at the prison. Overall, We Are Monster leaves you with a great sorrow. It is powerful, challenging and gripping but most of all it is insightful into what it means to kill and what it means to be racist. We Are Monster asks some pretty aggressive questions that are still waiting to be answered. Those responsible for We Are Monster, in all aspects, are admirable for their determination to draw attention to such an appallingly overlooked event.
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