I watched Immigration Street, in Madrid, and I didn’t tell any of my friends about it before seeing what the actual documentary was about.
Love Productions – producers of the infamous Benefits Street – began filming in Derby Road, last summer, during Ramadan. I met with the crew, spoke to them about my blog/my journalism career and they never once mentioned the name of the documentary. When they finally did, I spoke about how ‘immigration’ is bound to incite negative connotations. I’m fully aware my parents are immigrants, my dad moved to Southampton around 40 years ago, worked hard enough to support our family and we’ve never thought about moving out of Newtown.
Residents of Newtown campaigned for weeks, with posters, meetings including Labour MP John Denham, and discussions with the crew, yet we were ignored. It doesn’t mean we had anything to hide, but we didn’t want to be exploited at the expense of another documentary labelling our lives behind what could spark another ‘Benefits Street’ style backlash.
My sister Nadia was interviewed for the documentary – before being told about the name and angle of the show. We were initially told it was to ‘capture the multiculture of Derby Road’. She spoke about the bartering in her store and how the recent influx of Europeans has shifted the attitudes within our community – most of whom are immigrants from Asia.
The documentary itself was boring – more about the failure of recording anything at all. They made an angry confrontation seems like extreme threats. Kids threw eggs, residents swore and the producer was called out during local meetings.
We didn’t want to be filmed – it was Ramadan, most of the local Muslims were going about their daily lives while fasting and the camera crew were persistent.
Love Productions didn’t need willing participants because through aggravating our community, they managed to capture a few confrontations with hotheaded individuals and twisted it to make it appear like we’re uncivilised. It was so simple – don’t film, leave us alone. Documentaries rarely paint a happy image of a community but this one did, accidently, show how our community was united in the agreement that we don’t want to be filmed.
So before you make up your mind about Derby Road in Southampton, understand that the majority didn’t resort to empty threats, swearing and aggression – they didn’t have enough participants to show the true story so this one-hour long failure will do.