Friday, 13 February 2015

Snow in Paradise – film review: “intriguing, engaging” true story about an East End gangster finding salvation through Islam

Shacklewell Lane Mosque is where petty criminal Dave undergoes a spiritual transition

The UK’s first Turkish mosque plays a central role in a new film,Snow in Paradise, out today. Director Andrew Hulme chose Shacklewell Lane Mosque in Dalston as the location for his young protagonist Dave to enter as he tries to escape his criminal life, which is fast spiralling out of control.

The film is out in select cinemas across London from Friday 13 February – see it at Curzon Victoria, Curzon Soho, Curzon Wimbledon and Genesis Mile End. Or, for viewers in the UK and Ireland, watch online via Curzon Home Cinema 

Read our exclusive interview with director Andrew Hulme and his co-writer, actor Martin Askew whose life this film was based on.

Snow in Paradise – film review by Evrim Ersoy

Based on a true story, this account of a criminal discovering his spiritual calling through a conversion to Islam turns out to be an intriguing, albeit flawed attempt.

Frederick Schmidt as Dave
Dave (played by newcomer Frederick Schmidt) is a petty criminal in London’s East End. Increasingly isolated in a city which is evolving beyond recognition at head-spinning rate, he finds himself in emotional and mental turmoil when his actions cause the death of his best friend. Pursued by his criminal uncle and his men, the only solace to Dave is offered within the local Islamic community where the possibility of a future much different than Dave ever imagined becomes apparent.

Dotted with gangster clichés throughout, the debut feature of editor Andrew Hulme manages to score points by exploring avenues usually not seen in British gangster films. Taking tropes as his starting point, Hulme tries to delve deeper into Dave and his salvation through a way of life that is completely alien to the character’s own.

Hulme sets the material against the changing cityscape – the criminals are as lost in London as their victims, as the streets are slowly gentrified with new types of dwellers taking over the areas they used to own. 

Frederick Schmidt plays Dave as a man at a crossroads and it’s the moment of desperation and anguish which separates his character from the usual clichés we’re used to seeing on screen. Like last year’s Starred Up, the writer-director seems to be interested in playing with archetypes, turning them on their heads and it’s these moments which shine bright throughout the film. 

Snow in Paradise is based on the real life experiences of Martin Askew, who plays Uncle Jimmy

Although not all the beats of the film resonate as they should, somewhere within Snow in Paradise is an admirable attempt at marrying social commentary with the criminal plot without resorting to cheap moral judgments. The end result may be flawed but it’s also intriguing, engaging and worth exploring for sure.

See film trailer here

Directed by Andrew Hulme
Starring Martin Askew, David Spinx and Frederick Schmidt

BBFC Certificate: 18
Language: English
Duration: 108 minutes

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