Gentrification is a hotbed topic in developing countries across the globe. Whether it’s New York, Chicago, London, or Manchester, the phenomenon has destroyed cultures and communities living in impoverished but vibrant areas of cities. As someone who is perhaps more part of the problem than the solution, having just moved to Brixton for an art job, the terminology and the issue is perhaps under-explained by me. But I do know exactly what is happened and how horrendous it is that the working class and black cultures are manipulated by companies and the middle class and forced out of their living spaces to make way for the future. It’s terrible and these communities are fighting back to reclaim their heritage, their culture, and their way of live before it is gentrified forever.
A Moving Image focuses on this issue in the aforementioned Brixton. The combination of documentary and fiction captures the beating heart of the issue as well as the diverse cultures that are spirituous within the area. The film follows Nina, an artist/actress who is returning to the area after time away and finding that there are severe changes that have sparked off unrest and unease. When she tries to use this somewhat revolution as an art piece, she meets a whole host of character’s read to show her the problems and, more importantly, the beating heart of Brixton that makes it so great. But as her intentions are called into question, she wonders – could she be part of the problem?
Directed by Shola Amoo, A Moving Image is a quiet yet earnest depiction of Brixton as well as the community. Dabbling between real life events that spurned strikes and fight-backs and this fictional narratives, the film twists and dances through the community and manages to vibrantly display all the character this part of London has. Whilst there are some stories you’d wish Amoo would linger on, such as Nina’s own personal history and how that impacts her art, he has struck a great juxtaposition between the non-fiction and fiction tales. The back-drop of Brixton is showcased in such a way that you can feel the admiration for the area and the history that cultivated it. It’s sweet, endearing, and powerful – unafraid to show brutality and a loss of life both figuratively and metaphorically.
Actress Tanya Fear plays Nina in an astute, intelligent, and somewhat emotionally distant way (as a character choice, really, as Nina refuses to confront her own truthful feelings.) As she develops, Fear unravels the character in romance, in politics, and in herself. As a person who came from Brixton but blows back in as part of the issue, Nina is in a complex position and only through her art and strength can she re-find her identity – all great elements that Fear captures.
A Moving Image falls away a little at the end with no definitive conclusion but I guess that’s the point. The fight back against gentrification and people claiming their home for their own, against the influx of arty folk looking for a trendy fix, is a constant struggle and battle.
For lover’s of Brixton, this is a poetic ode to the area and a must-see. =
A Moving Image plays as part of the BFI London Film Festival this weekend.