Located in the borough of Lambeth in south London, Brixton is a community with a wealth of cultural and political history. It is also one of struggle and racial strife. Throughout the 20th century, Brixton was home to a community of African-Caribbeans, greatly affected by a recession that hit most of the UK. Per usual, the economic downturn not only strengthened the community over time, but provided a platform for a drastic transformation. And in 2015, the community of Brixton once again made headlines with protests entitled “Reclaim Brixton”. The aim of these protests was to bring attention to the plight of gentrification and those most affected by it. Filmmaker Shola Amoo utilizes this rich history to weave a narrative that speaks volumes of the impact of gentrification on a community already vibrant with culture and promise. His film, A Moving Image, utilizes the history of the multiple Brixton riots, and the “Reclaim Brixton” protest footage, to construct a narrative that fully realizes the impact of gentrification.
The film stars Tanya Fear as Nina, an artist who moves back to her hometown of Brixton. Partnering with her best friend, she embarks on an artistic process designed to delve into the impact and logistics of the aftermath of gentrification. Her visual journey brings her into contact with natives of Brixton and gentrifiers alike. However, her motives are soon questioned when she is forced to realize that she may be complicit in the gentrification of her ever-changing surroundings. Coupled with her own personal struggles, Nina begins to question her role in Brixton and the purpose of her art project.
The notion of borders is a underlying theme throughout the film. Many of those being displaced are often times those escaping the fragility of the borders of their home country. Whether they be borders that are tribal or landlocked, the many victims of gentrification tend to be people of color, who then find themselves further displaced in a land originally meant to be their escape.
Throughout the film, Amoo intersperses real footage of the history of Brixton with the fictionalized portions of the movie. Thus, the film becomes a sort of historical documentary that pieces together Brixton becoming a shadow of itself. Incidentally, the (somewhat) film within a film portrays gentrification as an inevitability: a process that is marked with the scourge of prejudice, and a lack of self-awareness. And as the film shows, we are all complicit in that change that displaces the most vulnerable. Nina’s journey forces her to embrace this inevitability, and at the same time develop a better sense of self. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers on how to confront gentrification, only more questions.