Beyond the Review: Uchenna Obaseki on ‘Hostile’

We are honoured to publish this reflection as part of Take One Action’s ‘Beyond the Review‘ initiative, supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. In August 2022, we hosted a two-part workshop – delivered by by gal-dem’s First Person editor, film critic and author Katie Goh – that invited participants to explore the way personal writing and film criticism can meet. Born out of the workshops, these commissions invite a reflection on the connections between local struggles and global realities in the TOAFF22 programme, while showcasing the talent and insight of the authors and supporting the development of their own practice.

For this instalment, Uchenna Obaseki has written a reflection on Hostile, screening as part of #TOAFF22 (find out more here).

A still from 'Hostile'. Two people sit on a bench in a park, with houses in the background and suitcases by their sides. The one on the left is wearing a blue hoodie and the one on the right wears a black sweatshirt.

The glum faces of students in the corridors of UK universities, biting their nails, with luggage packed at all times and wondering how they’ll survive with the mounting loans, housing rents and food prices as they study in United Kingdom with no recourse to public funds while the Home Office breathes down their necks and those of many other immigrants – this is more or less the meat in Hostile.

These students are allowed 20 hours of work each week but the idea of no recourse to public funds for them simply implies that with study visas, there are restrictions to access welfare safety nets. Some of these include benefits like Universal Credit and child benefits or even homelessness assistance or access to refuges for those that rely on public funds. This documentary chronicles the struggles of immigrants with the hardship they face daily as they await decisions from the Home Office on their status. This film evoked a lot of fears and palpitations within me as I watched what people go through year after year just to be part of a society and a community where they have found themselves or where they were brought into by their parents but would live with the consequences of their parents’ actions as they struggle to document themselves in the United Kingdom.

Hostile follows the story of Dave Carr – a Critical Care Nurse who questioned the treatment given to NHS staff which is comprised of immigrants to a greater extent. The documentary also follows Zana Khan, a GP who is in shock that her migrant colleagues who have worked to fill the gap as NHS staff are still scavenging for food and some homeless, ‘but are only praised with a clap?’ This only paints a picture of disgruntled staff who want more from the communities that they serve with all that they have but are given less. It leaves one with a feeling of desperation for more and a pang for recognition. This is evoked by the different pained faces people from different races on the NHS who work tirelessly as a chain to ensure everyone gets good medical assistance day and night, round the clock.

Though the United Kingdom is recognized globally as a welcoming society, the treatment meted out to migrants by the Home Office paints another picture of the country as one that dishes out inhumane treatment to people from different races who have found themselves in the country. Migrants struggle to work through piles of papers, lawsuits and countless visits to the Home Office, which this tends to take out the joy of existing in a ‘free country’ as a family and tends to take out focus on family love and unity to focus on piles of lawsuits.

One of the people we meet in this documentary, Akram Salhab (Campaigner at Migrants Organise), reflects on these challenges faced by migrants and shudders as the future of migrants in the United Kingdom is still bleak. The documentary Hostile is as its name implies, the grounds upon which the migrants step on in the United Kingdom is as hostile as can be and to this day there is still no hope in sight for those who still find their way into the country without ‘proper’ documentation, those seeking asylum or for those on study visas.

The quote that resonates as a rhetorical question for me is when one asked, ‘I wonder how much compassion you’ll hear in a country where leaders spread irrational fear’. It’s a pointer that the leaders are detached from ordinary people. The gloomy mood of the soundtrack, digs a hole in the heart as I wonder, is there hope for migrants at all?