Having watched the film with the intention of generating a better understanding about my own project, I was unsure how relevant this would be.
Without providing a broad context, the film explores the decisive landscape of Hackney. A place of clear divisions between urban hipsters and the ageing local population. A story told mainly through the eyes of local residents and business owners, the film falls short of an attack on words like ‘gentrification’ but it’s not far off.
An interesting approach used be Nelson is the use of human interest stories, some of which remain throughout the film, some of which subside as they leave the area such as the owner of the garage who eventually sells up and by the end of the film his former space has been renovated into trendy offices. The new owner appearing very proud as the building retains some of its former some of its original features. Almost using them as skeleton type trophies to act as a type of justification. This to me appeared quite an ugly justification of capitalism succeeding in removing or reappropriating history. I think this was probably the intention of Nelson in order to entice the audience into aligning with his own subjectivity.
Identifying objects which provide echoes of the past is a theme that I will pursue in developing my own project. The juxtaposition between the past and the future coming together in a visual sense. A major question being:
Is redevelopment a good thing?
Is retaining objects from the past a genuine effort to preserve or are they merely symbolic possession of the past?
One of the more powerful scenes from the film was the opening of a gallery where the curator can be seen nervously waving at a local man on the street receiving a meal from a soup kitchen. This served to illustrate the inequality in Hackney and the poor circumstances that local people find themselves.
In conclusion, this is an engaging film told mainly through the voices of local people unhappy about the gentrification of their home. The challenge of continuing to live in a place that is increasingly becoming unaffordable for the people who live there is a sobering message to come out of Nelson’s film.
Upon googling the vicinity of Hoxton Street to central London, one fears that the future of Hackney has little space for its past.
The Street (2019) [Film] Directed by Zed Nelson. UK, Verve Pictures.