A (paraphrased) quote uttered between two friends and roommates, Nina (Tanya Fear) and Isha (Hussina Raja), fully encapsulates the theme and essence of A Moving Image, the debut feature of UK-based Writer/Director, Shola Amoo and Producer, Rienkje Attoh. A Moving Image follows the inner and outer journey of Nina, who returns to her once multi-cultural hometown of Brixton, only to find it evolved into a former shell of itself, full of hipster and trendy “vanillaness.” Faced with this jarring image, Nina decides to take matters into her own camera-ready hands and creates a “moving” work of art that illustrates the changing community and the challenges that follow.
Brixton, a south London district (reminiscent of Brooklyn, for Americans to connect to), is visually brought to life through Amoo’s direction and Felix Schmilinsky’s cinematography in such a way that evokes its own characterization. Amoo’s cinéma vérité style of storytelling (displayed through Nina’s film-within-a-film) allows the viewer to truly connect with the area, and the vibrancy of the residents. One particular character, Big Ben (Yinka Oyewole), shines as the penultimate Brixton resident, providing the backdrop commentary of Brixton’s essence through song.
Gentrification is the primary theme and talking point of A Moving Image. In today’s society, where gentrification is a buzzword for politicians and citizens alike, this film is right on time. Amoo’s screenplay doesn’t hold back on the tougher points, providing the characters that interact with Nina with dialogue that pushes and challenges her character, which is much-appreciated. Typically, when broaching topics that affect impoverished and low-income citizens, there lies the risk of “savior exploitation,” and Nina is specifically taken to task for this. Showcasing a Black female lead character with the amount of agency and vulnerability that Nina has is very refreshing and providing her with legit challenges along the way is just the cherry on top of a well-developed character sundae.
Amongst Nina’s social and political challenges, lies emotional challenges as well. Her inner-battle between her two love-interests, Ayo (Aki Omoshaybi) and Mickey (Alex Austin) serves as a perfect metaphor for her struggle to balance the two worlds created by gentrification. The divide is obvious, from the specific dialogue between Ayo or Mickey, right down to the way Nina styles her hair when she’s in their respective presence. These details add to the poignancy of the film and its themes.
Tanya Fear, the central focus of the film, is as vibrant and vulnerable as Brixton itself in her portrayal of Nina. This film allows the viewer to see Brixton through Nina’s eyes — and, by extension, her camera lens — which provides the sort of perspective that makes it simple to immediately connect with and feel for her character. Fear’s portrayal of a complex and quirky Nina (which, not only includes her struggles with love and society, but the grappling with her own mental illness as well) is notable and supplements a craving to see more of her onscreen, here and otherwise.
A Moving Image is a truly ambitious film, in both its message and artistic display. It will surely stimulate provoking dialogue surrounding social issues such as race and class. Similar to Nina’s open-ended conclusion of her completed piece of art, this film ends in such an open-ended way that lends the figurative mic to the viewer… and to society at large.