Britain: My New Home was filmed & directed by Daisy Asquith and follows the lives of three young immigrants to the UK from the moment they arrived, right up until their 16th birthdays. I’m not sure what Daisy set out to conclude about the transition into British life but nevertheless, the three-part series would certainly serve as an eye opener for the everyday UKIP voter.
Altynay flew over to join her mother in Penistone, a small village in the north of England and was unable to speak or understand any English at all. She began at an English speaking school just 3 days after her arrival and we watch as she grows, makes friends and misses her family in Kyrgyzstan.
Imran, flew over from Pakistan having lived with his grandmother for the majority of his childhood. His relationship with his grandmother was so strong that he had even taken to calling her 'mama' over his own mother. On arrival in Peterborough, he was already missing her. Imran began school, speaking no English, 3 weeks after his arrival. He never sees his grandmother again, as she passes away just days before she is due to visit Pakistan.
It is an eye-opening ordeal with Marshal slotting straight in, Altynay having issues with racism and Imran really struggling to accustom to British life and unwilling to leave his Pakistani dress-sense and values at home. There was certainly some dedication from Daisy herself who followed the trio for approximately 6 years and became a trusted friend to the children along the way!
One of the greatest things within the film is the honesty in which it is presented. There is no such thing as political correctness when you're ten, and it's great to hear the natural reactions of the kids of Britain. It's also nice to see that when you're a kid, it doesn't really matter where you're from. Marshal immediately made friends with Carl, a red-haired boy who wasn't convinced that being black was any different from being ginger. Altynay had kids lining up to play with her. Imran on the other hand was slightly alienated from his peers as they made fun of his determination to hold on to his Pakistani dress and to his language - but who could blame him? He had not prepared to be brought from the only home he had ever know, to Britain where everything would be different.
The documentary explored a lot about identity and about what we consider to be 'home'. For example, you saw the elation in the three children as they travelled back to their home countries. Particularly in Altynay, as she played with the children in the park in Kyrgyzstan, no longer different than her peers. She even told her mum that it was ok to go back to England without her. It just shows how hard it is to leave behind the country you were born in, despite the good things that a move to Britain might bring. For the three children that Daisy followed, the move to Britain was a chance to give them new start and opportunities away from the conflict in Zimbabwe, the corruption in Kyrgyzstan and the poverty of Pakistan. I wonder how many UKIP voters have had to bring up their children in an environment like that.
The series really touched me as I saw these three children grow amidst British society. They hit hurdles along the way, who doesn't, but by the end of the three-part series, we feel as an audience that we too have grown.
We've seen Altynay visit her home country for second time and realise that she has become more accustomed to British life than she'd first thought. She was met with disapproval to her constant application of make-up during the day and to her determination to style all of the girls' hair. We also see the struggle that faces them with British politics as BNP power is strong in her community. In her final year of GCSE education she is met with direct racial abuse at school and has had enough. Although her first reaction is leave the country and not return, she does agree that it would be nonsensical to do so before the exams she has studied so hard to pass. So, she stays, having gained an extremely in-depth education, not only in terms of compulsory education but also in adapting to another culture and in finding her love for her own country.
We see Imran who has completely embraced the future that his grandmother wished for him. Although he holds back from immersing himself completely within British culture and stands by his belief that those who sin in eating meat not blessed and drinking alcohol will be punished, he does at least give in to wearing British clothes. He looks forward to the day when he is old enough and earning enough money to support his family back in Pakistan, as well as awaiting the arrival of his cousin, whom he will marry. This is what he looks forward to as he retakes his GCSEs at college and takes his driving lessons.
Marshal has perhaps embraced British culture more than the other contributors. He sets himself aside from others in that he says he is 'proud to be African' but also charmingly immerses himself in his dream to become a dance teacher and in his friendship with Carl. Although we see his excitement in returning to the border with Zimbabwe briefly for a family visit, he is happy to return to Britain where he has built a new life with his family and friends. His excitement and positivity is simply infectious. He'd be a brilliant dance teacher, or even TV presenter I think.
And so we have followed, alongside Daisy Asquith, the lives of our three youngsters and it seems a shame to say goodbye. It opens our eyes not just to the reasons that people choose to immigrate to Britain but also to the difficult and confusing transition it can be for the children that do so. It is shot brilliantly personally and daisy has clearly bonded with her adolescent contributors. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned is that we do not make it easy for immigrants to adapt. We push them out, have political parties insistent on denying them work, show racism towards ten year old children for simply wanting a better life. Who are we to deny them that opportunity? This programme only shows the willingness they have to learn and the passion that they have to try. If we all showed half of the resilience and determination these three children did during the 6 years Daisy followed them, Britain would most definitely be a better place!
For a better explanation of the series and it's three main contributors, read this amazing post from the guardian: