Britain has reached a crisis point. For generations, the country has relied on migrants to keep the wheels of its society in motion. But UK immigration policies are putting many migrants at risk of deportation. Is time running out for Britain’s migrant communities, just when we need them the most?
Hostile is a feature-length documentary focusing on the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the film focuses on the impact of the evolving ‘hostile environment’ policies, which are designed to make living conditions so difficult for migrants that they voluntarily leave the country.
The film explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and ‘Highly-Skilled Migrants’ have been affected. What does it mean to be British? What does it feel like to be told you don’t belong? This film seeks to hear these voices and inspire viewers to take action to create long-term change.
The documentary examines the UK’s ‘Hostile Environment’ — a term used by Theresa May in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere the government wanted to create for migrants in the country, with the intention of provoking migrants to essentially leave the country of their own accord.
The film shows those affected by the Hostile Environment including international students, families, and members of the Windrush Generation, as well as grassroots organisations who have been helping these people on the ground. Stories are revealed of migrants left with No Recourse to Public Funds – a visa condition which excludes people from a range of state benefits.
Throughout the film, personal stories are interspersed with the views of experts, academics and politicians such as British MPS, Zarah Sultana and Stephen Timms. Guiding the film’s narrative are academics Patrick Vernon, Gargi Bhattacharyya, Jeevun Sandher, Michael Bankole, Brad Evans and Maya Goodfellow, experts who provide historical context on the Hostile Environment as well as NHS medics like Zana Khan and Dave Carr. The film’s soundtrack consists of music from British-Indian, Nitin Sawhney CBE and spoken word from British-Ugandan, George the Poet.
This hostile environment was supposed to be about being hostile to people who were here illegally but the hostility extended to people who were here completely lawfully, in many cases for decades.
Hostile opens with Farrukh’s story – Farrukh is an IT engineer with the NHS who has been living in the UK for over 17 years and is now in Manchester with his wife and two young boys. Despite living in the UK for all these years, Farrukh is still unable to live here permanently. His story sets the tone for the complexities of the immigration systems in the UK.
The story then moves to NHS workers’ protests – many of whom are from migrant families. While working tirelessly to combat Covid at work, at home, many are fighting for the right to stay in the country.
The film then shows community organisers, Daksha and Paresh who, in response to the needs of NHS workers, initiated their own kitchen to feed NHS staff. As the pandemic progressed and the peoples’ needs grew, Daksha and Paresh expanded their services – generously feeding any impoverished and vulnerable members of the community.
International Students are among those helped by Daksha and Paresh. The students’ visas are marked with “No Recourse to Public Funds” — a status which prevents people from claiming any help from the state; and during the current pandemic they are left unable to work in bars and restaurants to support themselves during their studies. As a result they are unable to pay university fees; losing their places, their visas and their right to be in this country.
The tension continues to build throughout the film in Farrukh’s life. His four applications seeking “leave to remain’’ have been turned down, leaving him in thousands of pounds of debt and in constant fear of deportation.
Stories are shared from those who arrived in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. Invited to the UK to help prop up Britain’s post-war economy, decades later they were threatened with deportation. Anthony Bryan, a member of the Windrush generation, speaks about how he was arrested at his home and put in a detention centre on two separate occasions.
The stakes are high for the individuals in the story. Will time run out for Farrukh, who has spent thousands of pounds on visa applications and is still waiting for settled status? Will Daksha be able to keep feeding the hungry and homeless around her without adequate government support? Will the students with no recourse to public funds be deported without completing their university degree?
The film concludes with the thought that what is happening to migrants could soon be happening to all of us, asking the question: once the Hostile Environment has been rolled out to target all migrants in the country, who will it extend to next?
This government tells you all the problems you have are not your fault. It’s because of those migrants over there. It’s not our fault either. It’s because of the migrants.
‘I’ve written music for about 70 films and television shows but I’m probably proudest of my involvement in this because it’s incredibly important and it’s the most salient thing out there right now’
NITIN SAWHNEY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
What does it mean to be British? What does it feel like to be told you don’t belong? This film seeks to hear these voices and inspire viewers to take action to create long-term change.
Nationwide Q&A Tour
Friday, January 21st: Finsbury Park Picturehouse – London
Sunday, January 23rd: Rio Cinema, London
Tuesday, January 25th: Brixton Ritzy Picturehouse – London
Friday, January 28th:Picturehouse FACT – Liverpool
Sunday, January 30th: Duke’s at Komedia – Picturehouse – Brighton
Monday, January 31st: Picturehouse Central – London
Tuesday, February 1st: Arts Picturehouse – Cambridge
Thursday, February 3rd: Bertha DocHouse, London
Tuesday, February 8th Lexi Cinema, London
Wednesday, February 9th: Crouch End – Picturehouse – London
Sunday, February 13th: MAC Birmingham – Birmingham
Tuesday, February 15th: City Screen – Picturehouse – York
Tuesday, February 18th: The Gate, Notting Hill – Picturehouse – London
Sunday, February 20th: Little Theatre Cinema – Picturehouse – Bath
Tuesday, February 22nd: Cinema City – Picturehouse – Norfolk
Wednesday February 23rd: Harbour Lights – Picturehouse -Southampton
Tuesday, March 1st: Phoenix Picturehouse – Oxford
Thursday, March 3rd: Stratford Picturehouse – London