Primrose Hill director's film shows human cost of ‘hostile’ policy

Sonita Gale's work was shown at Glastonbury

Monday, 11th July — By Frankie Lister-Fell

Still from documentary

A scene from Hostile [Galeforce Films]

“WHY should I have to fight to be a part of the community I’ve grown up in?” the silhouette of a woman wearing a burqa asks. She goes on to recall how her school friends shared their lunch with her because she was not entitled to free meals.

It is one of the chilling stories told in award-winning director Sonita Gale’s BAFTA and BIFA long-listed documentary, Hostile, which was recently screened at Glastonbury music festival and aims to show the human cost of the government’s “hostile environment” policies towards migrants.

Ms Gale, 47, who lives in Primrose Hill, is the daughter of Sikh parents who were ripped away from their homes due to the partition of India.

She moved from her hometown in the West Midlands to Camden when she was 17 and the film was inspired by her intergenerational trauma and her own experience with racism.

“I think there’s a lot that has yet to be addressed with the trauma that our parents and our ancestors experienced,” she told the New Journal.

“I witnessed all of my parents’ struggles, the lack of money, the marginalisation because my mum couldn’t read or write, [and] the loss of identity. That loss affected me deeply and still does today.”

Sonita Gale at Glastonbury [Sonita Gale]

She added: “People don’t really realise when they meet an Asian and they think, ‘Oh, they’re ambitious, they’re gregarious’, but behind those eyes there’s a lot of pain.”

Her family found community in the convenience shop that Ms Gale’s parents owned in Bilston, near Wolverhampton.

But childhood memories include “being called a Paki almost every day” of her life as a teenager, of being chased down the street by the National Front and being pushed into a lamppost.

Ms Gale said she doesn’t blame those racists, adding: “I think racism stems from trauma, from not knowing who that person is and not identifying with them.”

When she moved to Camden to study psychology at the London Guildhall University she instantly felt at home.

“I didn’t feel that level of racism I felt in the Midlands,” she said. “I felt like this was a deeply multicultural society.”

The first thing she did when she arrived in Camden was go into a high street leather store to ask for a job.

One of the main goals of the film was to get the attention of policymakers and get organisations talking.

Ms Gale said: “There is no reason why in the future we cannot get rid of this hostile environment. It’s an abusive policy that limits human rights to another level.”

Hostile has had 80 screenings since January.

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