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Image of film still Snow in Paradise

Snow in Paradise puts East London in the spotlight

Date posted: 11.02.2015

Expect the unexpected in Snow in Paradise, an unruly take on the traditional gangster flick and a directorial debut from Andrew Hulme. Set in a series of bustling streets and dimly lit flats in East London, the film uses the well-worn framework of the gritty crime genre to tell a new and unanticipated story.

Newcomer Frederick Schmidt stars as Dave, a wayward Cockney wide boy who finds himself mixed up with the wrong crowd. When he lets his own ego land his best friend in serious trouble, Dave is forced to face up to the grim consequences of his choices. Based on the true-life story of co-writer and star Martin Askew, Snow in Paradise charts both Dave's attempts to leave his criminal past behind and his conversion to Islam.

Getting the London look

The capital plays an integral role in the film. As a city whose goalposts are constantly shifting, London's state of flux mirrors Dave's own emotional turmoil. The London of Snow in Paradise is an anxious one, haunted by encroaching gentrification and simmering racial tensions.

With the film based on real events, its creators were keen to find locations that held a real resonance with the story. For the most part the shoot was based in Hackney, with the Hackney Film Office providing invaluable support. It also filmed on Boundary Street in Tower Hamlets, with an additional shooting day in Camden.

While Hoxton provided the backdrop for its real-life inspirations, Snow in Paradise's action rolls out on the streets of Dalston. Director Andrew Hulme explains the reason behind the swap: "It seemed very fitting to film there, because there's a running theme in the film of gentrification, of change and things moving on. Dalston, right now, seems to be the very epitome of this phenomenon."

Subverting expectations

As the symbol of Dave's transformation, the mosque plays a pivotal role in the film. It was vital that the production find the perfect host venue. "When we came to scout locations, Woolwich had just happened," Hulme tells us, referring to the shocking public murder of British soldier Lee Rigby. "We thought we'd never find a mosque willing to let us shoot; we thought they'd be suspicious of our intentions."

Luckily, they had nothing to worry about. In fact, Shacklewell Lane Mosque was more than happy to open its doors to the production, even allowing them use of the adjoining community centre as a production base. "I think that must be a first for a British film," Hulme adds.

"This location played a huge part in our story as we shot many scenes in the mosque," location manager Lex Donovan adds. "The mosque owners and goers were incredibly accommodating, especially considering that our shoot took place during Ramadan."

Local talent

As a step away from the typical gangster genre flick, Snow in Paradise uses a well-known genre to tell an unexpected account of the changing face of the capital. It's a London story, brought to life by home-grown talent.

"I love the fact that my local neighbourhood was seen by a thousand people at our Cannes premiere," says Hulme.

  • If you are an exhibitor in London and you’re interested in screening this film, contact Film Hub London for further information.

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