A Moving Image
Young director Shola Amoo’s debut feature uses the south London demonstration Reclaim Brixton as its starting point to denounce gentrification. The docudrama combines footage of locals lamenting the gradual obliteration of small businesses and the soaring house prices with the story of a girl making a documentary about the subject. Amoo is aware that as an arty creative making a trendy visual project himself, he may be categorised as part of the gentrifying brigade. Thus, A Moving Image bears a personal imprint detectable through the protagonist’s own artistic ambition, social concern and influx of doubts fed by the complex inner divisions of the community.
Nina Edwards is a young aspiring actress who returns to Brixton, where she grew up, after living in Shoreditch for a time. She is shocked by the wave of fashionable transformations, but is reminded that she herself moved to hipster east London, drawn by its trendiness. After an audition goes wrong, Nina feels propelled to get involved in the Reclaim Brixton march, and begins to interview protesters. She then expands her research and meets a number of striking characters, from busker Big Ben to a group of hardcore activists, some of whom see her as an outsider and bluntly tell her that projects like hers don’t mean anything to real people.
While Nina chooses to fight for a cause, her knowledge and motivation do not run very deep. She tiptoes between the purists who think Brixton is the domain of those born and bred there, the guarded locals who believe that race plays a major role in the situation, and others who feel that modifications are a welcome improvement. A Moving Image is very concerned with its own reasons for existing and thus it lays out all the different viewpoints and criticisms that can potentially arise without, however, attempting to propose answers.
The film does not aim to be a comprehensive treatise but is rather a fictionalised “making of” of a documentary that freely indulges in artsy visuals and musical interludes. It clearly wants to make a statement opposing the changes affecting the area, but it softens the message by channelling it through the perspective of its ambivalent main character. Nevertheless, it does give an idea of the issues at hand and is visually satisfying. The graceful cinematography elevates scenes that would otherwise be didactic and formulaic, and there are many intimate shots focussing on the characters’ hands or other details that impart subtle information about their personality or state of mind.
Admittedly, gentrification is not an easy topic to tackle, but Amoo makes an excellent start in spite of the limited means. Most importantly, he addresses a subject worth discussing.
A Moving Image is released nationwide on 28th April 2017.
Watch the trailer for A Moving Image here: