Mario & Nini Review: On A Knife Edge

August 24, 2009 by  
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MARIO & NINI: Monday 24th August, Sky1, 10pm Alert Me

What did you want to be when you were 10?

A popstar perhaps? A footballer? David Hasselhoff? Probably not a gangster, right?

Unfortunately for Nini Gurashi, entering a life of crime is almost an inevitability. He’s acknowledged this at the age of 10.

In this documentary, teacher and film-maker Chloe Ruthven follows Nini and his friend Mario Saliasi over the course of 6 years growing up in inner-city London. The journey begins when the boys are nine years old, when Ruthven was teaching them in a class for children who are falling behind at school.

She interviews them on film, allowing them to speak freely and without judgement about their experiences and problems. They are bright enough, expressing themselves incredibly articulately, but already show signs of anger at being neglected by their teachers.

Ruthven also hands the camera to the boys so they can do their own filming and interviews, which they will later edit together with the film. Their interviews are indicative of the concerns they have, and as she allows them to be themselves, she grants them a voice, something children are usually denied.

She catches up with them every so often as they grow up, going through the ranks of primary to secondary school, football shirts to hoodies. With every visit comes a new development or complication in their story as they become more embroiled with the gang culture in their area; vandalising, obtaining weapons, going out to rob…

Ruthven and the boys build up a trust over the years, and as they speak so frankly about their experiences, with every part of their lives (and influences) so lucidly presented, it is alarming to watch at times.

Mario & Nini is compulsory viewing in a time where teens are so often demonised. In giving the boys a voice it bids the viewer to re-evaluate the situation with youth crime. It’s a difficult subject though dealt with ever so sensitively, even hinting at a solution.

It’s time for kids to want to be David Hasselhoff again.

Leonie Mercedes

Check out our review on the drama that deals with the effects of gang crime – Gunrush – or for more problems facing today’s yoof have a butcher’s at the Nip & Tuck – My Big Decision review.