Archive | April, 2013

Home Sweet Heygate

16 Apr

Home Sweet Home, Enrica Colusso (2012)

Home Sweet Home, a documentary based in the Heygate estate, speaks with both residents and council and corporate figures as the estate is gradually emptied through the latter’s’ ‘regeneration’ plans. Through this exploration, Colusso tries to draw out wider questions: what is a home, who owns our cities? However, the film maker’s whimsical voice tries too hard, the narrative-poetry does not come from the Heygate and feels forced and affected. It is more infuriating than informative. Shots of her Mac and iphone displaying archive footage, perhaps an attempt to play with documentary conventions, are jarring, unnecessary and inappropriate. Or perhaps it was some sort of reflexive acknowledgement of her class privilege or an ironic comment on the Mac class to whom the Heygate is being handed over to by Southwark council.

Yet, Colusso has captured some brilliant footage that makes the film important viewing. Speaking with residents in and around their homes and sometimes as they leave for the final time; these scenes are captivating – at times hilarious and very moving. A single parent mother tries to articulate her feelings about the imminent eviction as her daughter plays with a toy that sings a piercing jingle. A man sits for the last time in his armchair in the home he has spent half his life in. A grandmother wraps up her trinkets telling the stories that they hold as she gets ready to leave. These scenes convey uniquely and powerfully the inherent violence of gentrification. Juxtaposed with these homes – spaces that have been lived and loved in, now being brutally yanked away – a plastic looking man from Lend Lease, tries to convince us that he understands the meaning of ‘home’ describing the old farmhouse he and his partner have bought and are “SPENDING LOTS OF MONEY” renovating. Other interviews with the architect of the new development, the leader of Southwark council, and some other Southwark council non-entity, are fascinating in their grotesqueness. It is impossible to do what they said justice, but it involved a mantra of contempt for “poor people”. Taking themselves seriously, they came out with statements such as: “There are rich people and there are poor people, we need to mix them up a bit. Call me utopian…” Someone plays around with a model of the Elephant area, picking up the Heygate chunk and casting it aside. Replacing it with their vision, he proudly points out the new passage ways which have been created allowing people to “flow”. Through their language and actions they are surprisingly honest about their project of class cleansing. The absurdity of it all is shown through archive footage of Bill Clinton declaring that “Elephant is the place to be”.

A cliché ending with the Special’s Ghost Town tells the narrative that Lend Lease and Southwark council scum would have you believe. With one home still inhabited and many people still using the space for games, gardening and other activities, they have not won.