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How Kingsland Kurds took on the gangsters

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Kingsland drawings © Vic Lee

IF YOU’RE looking for a movie title, Kingsland seems hard to beat. Obviously a Dalston website would say that, yet the subtle allusion to land and ownership — feudalistic practices, even — is intriguing.

Hackney screenwriter Tony Grisoni certainly likes the name. He made a short film Kingsland #1 and has been given the go-ahead to expand it into a feature film based on real events in which, he says, “a community confronted the gangsters and won”.

He adds: “Our film will treat a particular area of London as a foreign country, where you don’t know the rules. It encourages you to re-see a once familiar cityscape. Kingsland #1 is a good indicator of where we’re heading: handheld but composed, classical, cinematic story-telling as opposed to a run-and-gun docko approach.

Grisoni has been researching the story since the 1990s when the Kurdish community around Hackney, feeling they could not get through the law or politicians, “took the initiative and confronted the gangsters and drug-dealers on the streets”. Huge fights broke out.

Hackney, Lon screenwriter Tony Grisoni

First direction: Grisoni

Somewhat controversially, the dialogue in Kingsland#1 was in Turkish rather than Kurdish but the feature film will be in Kurdish, Turkish and English. Inevitably, Grisoni has picked up “a few, a very few words in Turkish and also in Kurdish. I know how to say Thank you, which is handy.”

Asked why despite years of multiculturalism people still know little about people beyond their own group, he told Loving Dalston: “It’s to do with how little our worlds really intersect and how little we are prepared to step outside our social groups.”

Perhaps we don’t always appreciate their contribution, either. The writers agrees. “Kurdish people,” he said, “have made a particular stretch of Stoke Newington High Street what it is.”

He is emphatic that the vigorous defence against would-be looters last August by Kingsland restaurateurs and storekeepers – or “Turkish shop owners”, as The Guardian called them – will feature in the script “not at all”.

Grisoni has found it “very hard getting funding for our feature. Film London has made an act of faith in us. We are part of the same microbudget scheme that backed Ben Drew/Plan B’s Ill Manors at £120,000”.

A tiny budget means a quick production. “We will be shooting for three or four weeks,” he said. “We will shoot in real locations only.”

From Tony Grisoni short Kingsland 2008

From the 2008 short

The writer has an impressive record, having worked on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Unloved, among other movies, and in TV on The Red Riding Trilogy.

Often described as a “Hollywood screenwriter”, he commented: “That description makes others more excited than me. I choose to live and work here in the UK. My work can come from any place in the world, including Los Angeles.”

Producer Mike Elliot, of Microwave Film London, said filming was due to next February 2013. Grisoni will use professional and non-professional actors. He added: “We have not yet begun casting as we won’t be shooting until early next year. All applications should be made on our Facebook page.”

Dalston cineastes will hope that the makers preview the film at the Rio Cinema.

* The Kingsland drawing at the top is © Clerkenwell illustrator Vic Lee.

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