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Dirty pretty things

The title of Stephen Frears' movie is a contradiction. Does dirty mean sexual or does it refer to something more sinister? Besides, what is pretty about something dirty? And what are the things the movie is about?

No sooner than leaving London, I'm already missing it. "Dirty Pretty Things" is set in London, but it doesn't show the London that I know.

True, London is a city of foreigners - no wonder I feel so much at home there. Unknown to me, asylum seekers are not allowed to work. Illegal immigrants are not allowed to stay. But these are the people who fuel the black economy. For once you're granted permission to stay, your lack of income and savings qualifies you for housing benefit and unemployment benefit.

Okwe is a Nigerian doctor who works as a mini-cab driver by day and a hotel receptionist by night. He hardly sleeps. Instead he chews on an African plant that keeps him awake.

Senay is a Turkish asylum seeker who works illegally as a chamber maid at the hotel where Okwe works. She allows him to sleep on her couch and falls in love with him.

Okwe's discovery of a human heart that blocks up the toilet of room 510 disturbs him greatly. What will people do to get a passport to freedom? When you are desperate and illegal, you have no foot to stand on.

The question of immigration preys on every foreigner intending to stay in the host country. How do you become resident and get a passport? How do you avoid getting deported?

I tried the risk-free route of getting educated and getting employed in London. Okwe could have applied for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme visa (HMSP) as a medical doctor and qualify for a 3 year visa. However, he is running away from something. If Senay waited until Turkey became an EU country, she would be able to stay in the UK.

"Dirty pretty things" is about illegal immigrants and their desperate attempts to seek legal status in a country --- it does not have to be the UK. They are willing to give up something precious for a passport. And that something is both dirty and pretty.

5 January 2004 Monday

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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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