Can a mini movie lead Hackney to Hollywood?

Azeem Mustafa directs his Battle Creek Hackney 20-min gagster-pastiche film in Clapton 270116 © DavidAltheer[at]

HOUSES – FLATS, EVEN – can sell for millions in Hackney and so-called gentrification is the topic du jour. Yet whenever you mention in company that you live or work in the borough you should brace yourself for a bit of eyebrow-raising.

To people outside northeast London the place is crime-riddled, and that’s a stereotype Stoke Newington filmmaker Azeem Mustafa wants to play with.

So he wrote Battle Creek Hackney and since last May 2015 has been directing and filming it, complete with American narrative voiceover, martial-arts action, comical crims and slick theme song.

His crime romp is now being edited down to about 20 minutes and the 28-year-old Jackie ChanBruce Lee films fan swears the project hasn’t cost him a penny.

In the way of directors who make the most of everyday devices such as smartphones to avoid high costs he somehow persuaded actors to appear without charge. Taxi Tehran is a prime example of how to do it: it was shot on smartphones and won general release around the world.

Azeem Mustafa directs his Battle Creek Hackney 20-min gangster-pastiche drama in Clapton 270116 © DavidAltheer[at]
Mean on the green: Azeem Mustafa, and top, in a hall off a Clapton backstreet, he directs some of his characters getting a shot in

As for actors, Mustafa says he “kind of stumbled on my cast of 20 by accident”, meeting many of them when he was on camera on a movie being made in north London.

He adds: “Most of these guys have martial-arts experience and are actors who want to make a name for themselves.

“It’s great to be a possible springboard for their careers.”

And for his own. Mustafa is now debating into which film festivals to enter Battle Creek Hackney. If it works as a mini featureand, because pastiche is difficult to make work, it’s a big “if” – he might attract the eye of a producer. And a budget.

More than one great director has emerged in that way.

Hamish Scott 120216

* Trailer; Battle Creek Hackney updates 

* Backstory: New fears for Dalston’s Rio; Hackney house for £6 million; Life and death with Gypsies; Romanies fly to the final frontierbch©

* Above, a still from the film. All other pictures on this page © DavidAltheer[at] are for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats.

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