GFF21 Young Selectors Reviews: A Brixton Tale

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NB: This article contains spoilers for A Brixton Tale and is best read after watching the film.

A Brixton Tale is a film which, doesn’t matter how many times you watch it, you always get something out of it. The first view is not going to be the same experience as the second, the third, etc. It is a film with many layers. With each viewing, you will always discover something new. At first glance, A Brixton Tale might look like its main topic and themes reside in racism, but it is not like that at all. It is all about class.

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The film opens with the raw footage of a camera. We see Brixton, the people there, their worries and dreams, the injustice and commodities, a world divide. Leah (Lily Newmark) roams her eyes around the screen until she finds it, finally a topic for her documentary, Benji (Ola Orebiyi). Her topic, her study, her character. She clearly knows they are two people from two different worlds: Leah is a white girl from a wealthy family, and Benji is a black man from a so-called ‘lower class’. But she knows that there is potential for a good story in this man, something that will help her get into the best schools in the country, and she decides to convince Benji to let her tell it.

From the beginning, we get a glimpse of what is to come. A Brixton Tale focuses on the establishment of social class and the exploitation of the lower classes that comes from the media, especially artists, stealing and distorting the voices of lower classes for personal profit, building up an image of them that is distant from reality: violent, poor, face-forward, uncultured, egocentric, etc. The power of the film resides in its message surrounding the nature of finding and sharing your own voice and stories.

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This is enhanced thanks to a twist towards the topics and themes surrounding the film. The film’s directors, Bertrand Desrochers and Darragh Carey, bravely decide not to point fingers or look for the ones at fault. It would be so easy for this film to blame this oppression on the powerful and the higher classes, but that would be a message far away from the one that they want to tell. The directors decide to criticise the inequality that is consuming the UK, separating the social classes and building tensions between them.

This is so well-presented thanks to its visuals, which is clearly one of the highlights of the film. Not only does it look fantastic, but it emphasises the visual elements present in the script (written by Darragh Carey, Rupert Baynham, and Chi Mai), mostly the relationships of the characters with others and with their role in society. This can be seen when both main characters are introduced to each other's world, constantly being seen and judged by others as they crash into what is established in Brixton. The city is shown with two palettes of colours. The first one would be about the night: black, yellow and orange. Representing the craziness and over-the-top scenes behind it, creating a sense of the unreal, a world where Leah and Benji can be together. This view crashes against the daytime: white, blues, and greens. Showing the gritty, harsh monotony that comes with reality: the cold winter, the snow, and the vape present in the air. Where Leah and Benji seem more distant.

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This is enhanced by the soundtrack, another of the biggest highlights of the film. It goes from magical, romantic and nostalgic, to ominous, relentless and sinister, balancing the tone carefully and helping with the fast pace of the film.

Finally, it is worth noting the surprising performances. Lily Newmark, Ola Orebiyi and Craige Middleburg (as Archie, Benji’s best friend) create a trio of incredibly powerful characters with great symbolism behind them. Their performances shine in this film, with chemistry that works extremely well when they are together. Apart from them, Jaime Winstone (as Tilda) and Dexter Padmone (as Darius) are solid in their roles.

To sum up, Desroches and Carey deliver a unique film that brings a twist to the genre, a fresh take that is much needed in the ever-changing world that we live in, and a message that calls for introspection.

Enrique Pereira Díaz, Young Selector
Glasgow Film Festival 2021

All Monday to Friday shows before 5pm have capacity capped at 50% (unless otherwise stated). All other screenings have full unlimited seating capacity (unless otherwise stated).

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