Life and death with Gypsies: a new Hackney film

Romacamp: Tent village camp of homeless people (Rimanian Roma, Poles?) under road bridge (North Circular, M25?) on the River Lea/Lee just S of Broxbourne Hertfo
Linda McDonald Cairns (PR pic)
Hackneyite: film-maker Linda McDonald Cairns (supplied pic)

TO SPOT a good movie or play from a few notes is not easy. Were it otherwise, we’d all be producers.

Crowdfunding has changed that, giving us all the chance to invest something in a film without risking everything.

One that intrigues this site is Muló, a short fiction film about Gypsies. It’s being shot by film professionals on Hackney, Walthamstow and Tottenham marshes in the Lea Valley.

Muló, Romany for a ghost (and is in London slang as “mullered” — wrecked/drunk/beaten), is set within a hidden Roma shanty camp near the North Circular ring road.

Director and co-writer Linda Cairns, an occasional Hackneyite, tells Loving Dalston: “Poverty and desperation leaves these (Roma) men scrabbling for meagre earnings, as the chill of winter bites the air.”

Subject to extortion attempts and facing violence, hero Nicu finds himself forced to make a difficult decision after a murder.

Cairns continues: “There are numerous reasons why we wanted to make this film. The Roma men who inspired it had intriguing qualities, quiet strength, perseverance and inventiveness.

“Thy had been living very close to us, hidden from sight in makeshift camps alongside the North Circular.

“The location’s atmosphere was inspirational… the road, the river, the huge incinerator churning out smoke 24 hours a day… a perfect backdrop for a haunting drama.

“There exists in that environment a rigid juxtaposition between the relentless flow of the North Circular traffic above and the sluggish flow of the River Lea below… a tangible, timeless quality that visually symbolises the perpetual flow of immigration that has always been London’s story.”

Muló lead actor (supplied pic)
The lead in Muló, set in London, is taken by Romany actor Bobi Rostas (supplied pic)

Producer, and Dalstoner, Zakiya Petty adds: “I was drawn to the project because of the unique take on a very current and important issue — migration and marginalisation.

“It wasn’t a typical hardship story but drew on the culture and folklore of the Roma to make their story and the community more three-dimensional.

Romany buskers on wet Thames bank below S Bank arts centre London 230714 ©
Busking by the Thames bank: Roma at the South Bank arts centre in London © David Altheer

“I joined in the hope of telling a story that breaks with what author Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie calls ‘the single-story narrative’, which can be damaging to any culture, especially one as marginalised and vilified as the Roma.

“It’’s important for cinema to tell these stories, which can help to combat age-old prejudices.”

Petty explains that her well-qualified team needs pledges to help with principal photography, to pay the actors — mostly London-based Roma — feed the cast and crew, translate the script, build the set and pay for locations.

As for me, I’m still no producer but the two-minute promo trailer looks promising. If you agree, look out for it at the crowd funder.

Hamish Scott 140915

* Main pic: camp under a highway bridge next to the Lea on the edge of NE London. A few days after this photograph (© 2015 was taken, the authorities removed the Roma and fenced off the area.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.

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2 thoughts on “Life and death with Gypsies: a new Hackney film

  1. The trailer is really beautiful and it’s a great crowdfunding campaign. I cannot wait to see the finished film. They definitely have my support.

    Certainly, the trailer is appealing. And the research I did for my colleague’s piece makes me further think that you are correct. — Ed.

  2. Wow, what an interesting idea for a film. That trailer looks really interesting and very London but in a contemporary, fable sort of way. Amazing work.

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