A Brixton Tale – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
Directors – Darragh Carey, Bertrand Desrochers
Writers – Rupert Baynham, Darragh Carey, Chi Mai
Stars – Lily Newmark, Barney Harris, Michael Maloney
There was a time when what many would consider the ‘exquisite’ English pronunciation of Laurence Olivier (1907-89) had to be sub-titled, especially when his films were shown in the southern states of the USA. If that was a problem then the heavy set lingo, the Brixton patois, throughout this dense tale will challenge many more. It may even limit its viability outside of London, which is a shame as it is a packed tale with multiple themes and issues to address. If anything that is its greatest challenge as it is trying to tackle a lot – family relations, white privilege, voyeurism, inter-racial relationships, wealth versus poverty, the shallowness of the ‘art –scene’, and possibly even a hint of Wilde’s forbidden love.
The narrative is straightforward, well-to-do (arguably spoilt) London girl has it in her head to pick the gritty street life and street boys of Brixton for her arty video piece on street life. Employing a directional style akin to the art video itself we may well feel we are watching the actual art installation, but we soon get the hang of that and, like voyeurs ourselves, we get glimpses of the lifestyle of ‘other’ and how each side in the social divide views the other. The world of Brixton being as alien to one as the leafy comfort of grand suburbia is alien to the other. Indeed it is slightly repulsive to watch the manner in which she views the other through the lens of the camera and edits to suit her agenda. There has been an awful amount of art theory and art writing on the ‘gaze’. In many ways, this film succinctly displays what is meant by the ‘gaze’ without the accompanying academic jargon. Inevitably, a love interest develops and Brixton boy is dragged into social situations he cannot control and ultimately everything starts to fall apart. All of this ends up being overly believable on many levels, aided by the edgy camera work. We really are at that party and know, or think we know, the types.
The crime statistics and social pressures of Brixton are well known and in this tale, it is all too credible that good people, with loving mothers and loyal friends, get into situations they cannot tackle, already excluded by race and lack of social mobility from the world of the privileged. There is much to take away from this film if perhaps a little too much.