Film review: Hostile

New documentary explores the experiences of migrants in the UK's 'hostile environment'

Hero image

Powerful feature-length documentary Hostile (from 21 Jan, general release) explores the UK’s relationship with its migrant communities and looks at the impact of the “hostile environment” – the term deployed by Theresa May in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere the government wanted to create in the country for people they posited were here illegally.

The film follows a fascinating handful of people who, in one way or another, find themselves at odds with the immigration system, and combines their stories with interviews with experts, academics and politicians, and archive footage covering everything from Britain’s colonial past, the infamous Rivers of Blood speech and the arrival of people from the Caribbean, who later became known as the Windrush generation. It’s a deeply personal project for director and producer Sonita Gale, who even turns the camera on her own mother to examine her experience as a refugee during the partition of India from Pakistan.

Made during the pandemic, the film captures how the last couple of years have compounded an already difficult situation for some. This is highlighted in interviews with international students who have “no recourse to public funds” stamped on their visas and who suddenly found themselves without any source of income when their usual routes to paid employment, in bars and restaurants for example, were closed. They were left unable to support themselves, let alone pay for their studies, and faced deportation because of it.

One voice mostly missing in the film is that of the policy makers themselves. There is an awkward grilling of current home secretary Priti Patel sliced from a BBC radio interview, however, in which she’s pressed on whether her own family would have been able to emigrate to this country given the new points-based immigration system.

Although a hard watch at times, given the trajectory of our current government on the matter, there is some hope in the film. The footage from Glasgow when residents blocked deportation vans from taking away their neighbours details the kind of community uprising that’s going to be needed to turn this miserable and shameful tide.

This is an ambitious project that feels too short to truly do justice to the depth and breadth of its subject matter, but is still an important film for our times.

Hostile will be in UK cinemas from 21 January, with a nationwide Q&A tour at Picturehouse and other independent cinemas. Tickets are available at hostiledocumentary.com/tickets 

Interact: Responses to Film review: Hostile

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.