Monday, 30 September 2013

Evaporation of the east End spirit: East One film screening at the Barbican

East End people "evaporated" by regeneration, says filmmaker

By Paul Coleman

"The film laments the loss of East End people who have been evaporated by regeneration," says filmmaker Phil Maxwell, a long-term east London resident and former elected local politician.
  But East One (UK 2013), co-produced by Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim, might be in danger - unwittingly perhaps - of becoming seen as a prematurely nostalgic obituary to the spirit of working class east Londoners, generations of whom came from all over Britain and the Jewish and Bengali diasporas, to make Aldgate, Spitalfields and Whitechapel their home. 
  East One sets out as an engaging slice of East End nostalgia, driven by a pleading piano score - and tries to skim over the relentless outcomes of property developers and the 'buy-to-let' marketeers pricing these working people out of their family homes and traditional neighbourhoods.

Nostalgia over politics
But the grim reaper of 'Regeneration-Gentrification-Displacement looms beneath the surface of every nostalgic East One interview with some colourful local Aldgate characters. Sandra Esquilant, landlady of the Golden Heart pub off Brick Lane, heavily sighs: "The changes to this area haven't been for the best." 
  Maxwell and Hashim spent a year on this non-commercial "labour of love" documentary. Maxwell, a former elected local councillor, concedes East One avoids the politics of 'displacement' - namely, why elected councillors largely acquiesce in the displacement of local working people. 
  That's understandable, up to a point, but the nostalgia road taken leads East One perilously close to a triumph of pessimism over the East End spirit of optimism. The film pulls back from this peril through giving considerable free rein to the fighting poetry of local resident and poet Bernard Kops.
Maxwell and Hashim dwell generously on Kops as he spiritedly recites his Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East inside one of London's oldest and dearest synagogues, a passage helping to dispel much of East One's malingering, pessimistic after-taste. 

Filmmakers Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell spoke after East One (UK 2013) was screened at the Barbican as part of the Urban Wandering film season. 

Photo: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013.

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