‘Mission accomplished’: Filmmaker helps turn around delinquent life of his younger brother

Umut in Brooklyn, just before he decided to make the film about his brother

Umut in Brooklyn, just before he decided to make the film about his brother - Credit: Archant

Motivated by guilt, filmmaker Umut Gunduz turned his sights to helping his delinquent younger brother turn his life around by ‘giving him a voice’, in a documentary - Stevie G - which premieres at the East End Film Festival today.

Brothers Stevie G, Umut and Ozzie

Brothers Stevie G, Umut and Ozzie - Credit: Archant

Gunduz found making the emotional movie about Stevie G - which intersperses testimony from the present day with poignant VHS footage from their childhood - was as much “like a counselling session” for himself, as it was for his brother.

The 37-year old from Well Street, South Hackney, left home aged 18 and therefore missed out on the troublesome years of Stevie who is six years his junior - but set out to make the film three years ago.

Gunduz said: “I was in New York and I called my mum and she said Stevie was in prison again, but only after we had been talking on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes already.

“I felt we had got to a point when we were so accustomed to his way of life we didn’t even talk about it as a topic of conversation, it was just thrown in. “I thought why don’t I make a film about him and then he can get to know me better and I can get to know him.

Stevie G

Stevie G - Credit: Archant

“I wanted us to have a project to work on creatively together, to give us some quality time to do something constructive and hopefully that would help him break out of his cycle - and it seems to have worked.”

Gunduz found that instead of his own emotions being released in a cathartic way during filming, he felt “a knot which got tighter and tighter” until eventually he broke down during the edit.

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“That’s a way of saying the director doesn’t know what to do, I couldn’t make decisions,” he explained.

“It’s a horrible feeling, you lose all your confidence, it compromises your feeling of security as a director for one, and mostly it compromised my feeling of security as a human being.

Stevie G

Stevie G - Credit: Archant

“It was like, “Hang on I don’t know what’s going on,” and I was in a room with other people as well. They said, “Umut what do we do here?” and I was like, “I want to talk to a counsellor pretty much”.”

Gunduz went off to edit the film alone, and decided that instead of portraying the story from Stevie’s perspective, he would add in his own voice as his older brother and explore what had gone wrong with Stevie.

“Before it was about a guy who had a bad life, it could have been a cult movie but there was no emotional chord,” said Gunduz.

“My main aim with the film is to show that man is still that little boy, there’s a part of him that’s still that kid that you saw at that age - it’s still him.

“There are still some scenes in there that I can’t watch without crying.

“Stevie said it was interesting for him to be able to organise his life and put it into perspective and look at incidents that led to other incidents, and most importantly I think he needed someone close to him to talk to.”

Stevie has since studied landscaping and bricklaying and secured custody of one of his children.

“He has a little family for himself and he has started a new business.

“That’s mission accomplished and the rest has been all this stuff with the film which is good,” said Gunduz, whose whole family will be attending the premiere of Stevie the Rio Cinema in Kingsland High Street, Dalston, at 3.45pm today.

Umut Gunduz will be answering questions after the film.