An award-winning horror with a small h, Raging Grace is filmmaker Paris Zarcilla’s response to the “micro and macro aggressions of racism” that Britain’s undocumented workers endure.
It’s a film that uses all the tropes of horror to explore what life is like for those working in the UK illegally.
The story centres around Joy, a young Filipino mother, who finds herself caring for a terminally ill man in order to support her British-born daughter Grace.
“Unfortunately, so many experiences of undocumented workers, immigrants, children of the diaspora, are often horrific,” Zarcilla explains.
“My mum, who was a domestic worker when she first came here, worked for rich families and would clean for them, look after their kids.
“They’re often invisible to society, they’re an invisible pillar, and I wanted to be able to show a very specific lived experience that often receives the micro and macro aggressions of racism in our society.”
From rage to page
Zarcilla told Sky News the idea came about in response to what he witnessed around him during the pandemic.
“It was a reaction to a year of great racial chaos, especially over here in the UK, where we were experiencing open aggression towards East and Southeast Asians,” Zarcilla says.
“The very kinds of immigrants that were supporting a very beleaguered NHS.
“Filipino nurses and doctors who were dying on the frontline to protect the British public.
“I was so enraged by it that I needed to put that on a page somewhere.”
No UK funding a ‘deep shame’
But when it came to finding funding, he had to look overseas.
“We went to every single funding body in the UK, and they said no,” Zarcilla reveals.
“I thought I had written something that was true to an experience, a British experience, but it didn’t quite fit with people’s idea of what that was.
“So we actually ended up finding the money in America, which is such a deep shame because I’m deeply proud to be a British Filipino filmmaker.”
And that US investment paid off. Earlier in the year, Raging Grace was the first ever British winner of the prestigious Grand Jury prize at the South By Southwest film festival.
Of course, its release in UK cinemas now comes at a time when immigration is a contentious political talking point: the government promising to clamp down on people smuggling, a majority of the public wanting the UK to control who crosses into its own borders.
“I’m filled with shame and incandescent rage for a government who are so inhumane,” Zarcilla says
“We have seen such disdain for humanity, disdain for the working class and the general public, and honestly, this is what this film is about, you know, finding ways to rebel.”
Raging Grace is in cinemas from 29 December.