A Moving Image

Directed by Shola Amoo
Starring Tanya Fear, Hussina Raja, Aki Omoshaybi, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Alex Austin and Yinka Oyewole
In UK cinemas April 28th, 2017

by Bernie C. Byrnes

I don’t like to give damming reviews – they usually say more about the critic than the film – but I am genuinely struggling to find anything positive to say about award-winning A Moving Image. British-Nigerian filmmaker Shola Amoo’s directorial feature debut claims to look at gentrification in Brixton through a mixture of fiction, documentary and performance art. Nina (Tanya Fear), a young artist, returns to her community after a long absence, and soon questions whether she is part of the problem of gentrification that she witnesses around her. As she struggles with her own complicity, she embarks on a mission to create a piece of art that can bring her community together. The film follows her journey, and fact and fiction merge as the lives of real Brixton residents affected by gentrification are brought into focus.

Sounds good. Sadly the execution falls woefully short of achieving these aims. One major problem is that Nina, an amateur filmmaker and actress, is creating ‘a visual-art piece about gentrification’. The very phrase ‘visual art piece’ had me desperate to leave. Several characters in the film ask her what it is she is actually trying to achieve. She never really finds out. Nina’s lame deflections feel as hollow as her referring to her home footage as ‘work’ or ‘art’. Pointing a camera for way too long at someone busking, ranting self-consciously or indulging (and I use that word carefully) in interpretive dance pretending to be a baby is not, in my opinion, a worthy project. This film makes no real attempt to tackle gentrification, or class, or race, or mental health – which it briefly flirts with. By far the most interesting potential in the film is when we discover that Nina is suffering from depression. That said, she ‘doesn’t want to talk about it’ so even that is pointless.

This film is awkward. Nina’s (and by extension Amoo’s) ‘vanity project’ is ghastly. It features ghastly people (both fictional and real) being ghastly. The only point I managed to discern under the self-satisfied smugness was that given half a chance everyone would want to go to a Hoxtonesque house party in a Brixton Loft even if they are poor, political or working class. Well I wouldn’t and spending 74 minutes in the company of these vacuous and over-entitled bores taught me nothing more than that.


Leave a Reply