A Moving Image Review
Inner-city gentrification is topic that has been hotly debated in recent years. In cinematic terms it hasn’t found much currency and director Shola Amoo’s A Moving Image stands out as one of the few films to approach the subject. He manages to do so in a slightly unconventional way, making it a far more interesting and immersive experience than it otherwise might have been.
His low-budget, docu-drama approach follows the journey of Nina (Tanya Fear) returning home to Brixton after spending some time away living in a more fashionable part of London. What she comes back to is a borough in upheaval, with local residents being pushed out due to higher rents imposed by property developers capitalising on the new found trendiness of the area. Nina starts a multimedia project focusing on gentrification, hoping to capture the feelings of the local residents; although she isn’t made to feel as welcome as she might have thought.
Amoo himself is a South London resident which makes this very much a passion project. By building a fictional narrative inside a documentary, we are taken closer to the stories of the local residents and business owners. As Nina walks through a Reclaim The Streets protest unfolding in Brixton, her character has to step in and outside of her fictional world. What should have been quite a tricky balancing act is managed well by Tanya Fear, whose relaxed performance handles it with ease.
As you can imagine, the film is shot on a micro budget and looks and feels as such. You can tell this is a film made by a director that cares about the topic and the lo-fi ethic works because of that. While most of the cast sound inexperienced and Nina’s story is a little patchy in places, actually seeing the seams of the production helps it along, making it feel all the more authentic.
The white middle class have long since altered the shape of places like Hackney and typically it is black or Asian families that are being asked to relocate far from their foundations. Race, class, social cleansing, and depression are just some of the subjects being discussed, but due to a runtime of just over 70 minutes, there is not enough space to do them all justice. What isn’t offered are easy solutions to the problem, while facing up to the fact that almost every local is complicit in the unwelcome changes happening in Brixton and areas like it.
A Moving Image is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, and while not successful in everything it attempts, more marks are earned rather than lost due to its adventurous approach. A film twice the length would still struggle to get to the heart of gentrification and the many thorny issues tangled within. The dramatic elements won't linger in the mind for too long, but it brings to the screen an important topic in a way that will generate much needed discussion.