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Huda, Menhaj (1967-)

Director, Producer

Main image of Huda, Menhaj (1967-)

Contemporary British filmmakers are often required to balance journeyman commercial work with cherished projects, and to weigh development dead-ends against lucky breaks. What has set Menhaj Huda apart has been his ability to shape a filmmaking CV of innovative and timely projects that capture the attitudes and ambitions of youth audiences, leaving a legacy of pop-culture memories for every generation to come of age since the mid-1990s.

Born in Bangladesh, Huda moved to the UK as a child. Graduating from Oxford University in the late 1980s, he quickly moved into music video production, editing pop promos for hip hop and dance acts such as Rebel MC and Blue Pearl. Experience as a DJ and club promoter led to a pitch to Channel 4 for a series about the UK's dance music scene. They commissioned Hypnosis (1993), an innovative magazine programme that combined music from DJs such as Carl Cox with artist interviews, city profiles and club news. Broadcast at Sunday teatime, it played like a publicly-funded terrestrial comedown and lasted only one series. But Huda's foot was in the door and commissions followed for shows like global youth culture series Passengers (Channel 4, 1994-2002) and R'n'B video jukebox Flava (Channel 4, 1996-2001).

Having cut his teeth in music television, he wanted to move into drama, making his first fiction short, Jump Boy, in 1998. Penned by Harsha Patel, and starring Ray Panthaki as an American gangster wannabe, it soon led to mainstream directing work. In 2000 he helmed the two-part sequel to Russell T. Davies' landmark Queer as Folk (Channel 4, 1999-2000) and earned further stripes on episodes of EastEnders (BBC, 1985-present). By 2001 he had landed his first feature length project, the Ibiza-set Is Harry on the Boat? which was initially developed for theatrical release but ultimately shown as a satellite-only TV pilot (Sky, tx. 8/7/2001) and led to a successful Sky series.

Huda continued to develop feature projects while working on various TV dramas, including episodes of The Bill (ITV, 1984-2010) and Murphy's Law (BBC, 2001-07), until Ray Panthaki brought Noel Clarke, and his script for kidulthood, to Huda's attention. Recognising the potential of Clarke's tough material, he decided to produce and direct the film to ensure the script kept its authentic voice. In the process kidulthood (2005) became an unflinching, sometimes brutal, film about the troubles of inner city 15-year-olds in Blair's Britain. The target audience repaid its frankness and, following its cinema release in March 2006, the film went on to shift 700,000 DVDs.

Clarke and Huda continued working together, most closely on the BBC Three teen drama West10 LDN (tx. 10/3/2008) but Huda, keen to avoid pigeonholing, chose to branch out again. His second feature, Everywhere and Nowhere (2011), combined elements from his career to date, taking its inspiration from one of his early shorts, Raj or Radge? (1998), and returning to the DJ culture that gave him his start.

Dylan Cave

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