The Street

 

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An appealing film record of how Hoxton in East London is faring today.

 
The Street

  

There is something very engaging about this film made by the well-established photographer Zed Nelson. In portraying Hoxton as it is today, it is not the first film about gentrification transforming a London district in recent times (it follows, for example, Shola Amoo's A Moving Image (2006) set in Brixton).  But this one was shot over four years and, for me, part of its appeal lies in Nelson's refusal to be didactic. It has been suggested that the film ought to have been more angry but, instead of preaching, this is a work which tellingly captures a range of opinions that convey just how contradictory attitudes can be.

 

Once a close-knit community in East London, Hoxton is undoubtedly being altered beyond recognition by developers as local businesses close and excessively expensive new accommodation for yuppies and the like take over. Consequently, The Street is a portrait of a society as it exists before the transition is completed and the present way of life has disappeared. Yet as we meet a varied group of people living in and around Hoxton Street nothing is as clear-cut as one would expect. Many lament the passing of the old days, but we are also reminded that gangsters and the National Front are part of Hoxton's history. Some, however, will tell you that the community spirit is still there, while others indicate emphatically that it has been lost. The film is all about change certainly, but if anti-Semitism was once prevalent, that was surely an attitude akin to the current hostility expressed in this Brexit era towards foreigners. But, if those inhabitants doubtless glad to identify as being among the Brexiteers are given space to express such views here, so too do we hear from foreigners who had been welcomed into the community and are now aghast at the new mood in the country.

 

Nelson has given us a film without a commentary so the wide-ranging and often conflicting views heard leave us to draw our own conclusions, and that I like. Equally, I am very taken by the quality of Nelson's images and not just by their composition but by the flow achieved by Nelson and the film's editor, Julian Rodd. The latter aspect is so adroit that for most of its length I was carried along happily by the film regardless of the fact that the absence of a commentary always makes it difficult to give a film shape. Unfortunately, I did feel that the last quarter of an hour suffered from this; it contains touching footage of an elderly woman in her eighties who has earlier featured at intervals, but the lack of an arc weakens this final stretch which for no particular reason come to rest on an elderly Russian also seen earlier. I was particularly sorry that the last scenes meandered disappointingly because up to that point The Street is very appealing and it marks out the Ugandan-born Zed Nelson as a talented filmmaker.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  the inhabitants of Hoxton in Hackney.

 

Dir Zed Nelson with Peter Grylls, Pro Zed Nelson, Ph Zed Nelson, Ed Julian Rodd, Music Rachel Portman.

 

Wagon Trail Productions-Verve Pictures.
95 mins. UK/Switzerland. 2019. Rel: 29 November 2019. Cert. 15.