Some use the medium of Film to entertain, to thrill, and others use it to educate and inform. Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle, director Paul Sng’s second feature-length documentary, certainly aims to enlighten the British population, and to encourage conversation.
The film explores the reason for the shortage of social housing and the effects that it has had on the people of Britain, fore-fronting government policy that continues to avoid the need to build more council housing. Focusing on particular areas in London, Glasgow and Nottingham, representative of the country as a whole, the film acts as a sad reminder – but also a warning for those still unaffected by the tragedies that are the subject of the documentary.
Dispossession is giving a platform to those that have lost the battle, or are still fighting it. These are the working-classes that have remained voiceless in the mainstream media, and have only been spoken for by those in power, unable to speak for themselves. This is done through often heartbreaking interviews that give an account of how it feels to lose your homes completely. Through these personal interviews, the film really helps to convey the ideals and sense of community that still exists within the communities, but due to the media’s demonisation of estates, is concealed from those that live outside of them.
Tackling ideas of social cleansing and the term ‘renovation’ being used to disguise total demolition, the film makes excellent use of academic consultation, graphs, statistics and data to stress just how serious an issue this is in modern society, and chronicles the escalation of this tragedy from the post-war enthusiasm of providing social housing, of which stock-photos are used to illustrate. The employment of visuals to reinforce voice-over and narration is competent and stimulating, often highlighting political graffiti, which is also contrasted with ideas of art-washing from oppositional forces.
The struggles that many have been facing are broken down to help audiences grasp the issues at hand, and Sng’s agenda is never out of sight, criticising the use of language such as ‘affordable housing’ to erode the social. People have been forced from their homes, and rather than more houses being built of the same cost, they are provided with a far-more expensive alternative.
The film addresses the issues caused by the inception of the Right to Buy scheme introduced in 1980. When the scheme was introduced, 42% lived in council housing, in 2017, this has fallen to less than 8%, with millions of homes having been transferred into private ownership.
The film aims to provoke discussion, and to encourage individuals to come together to debate solutions. This is exactly what followed post-screening, as the audience were joined by the director and knowledgeable members of organisations with an insight into the films assertions for a Q&A. During which, many of the audience spoke, discussing holding private landlords to account and pushing social housing’s need for public investment. The Q&A session became rather heated, with the director even having to stress that he is not a politician, but a filmmaker, and one that has made an important film, which judging from the film’s reception and turnout last night at Leicester’s Phoenix Square, is already proving impactful.