The Great Big Romanian Invasion, TV review: Documentary-maker Tim Samuels went further than Nick and Margaret ever bothered to
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Friday 18 July 2014
The ancestors of documentary-maker Tim Samuels came to the UK from Romania, and this personal connection explains why Samuels' interest in the prophesied influx of Romanian immigrants (remember that?) has outlasted everyone else's.
We now know that the number of Romanians in the UK actually fell after immigration restrictions were lifted at the beginning of this year. But what of the 100,000 Romanians who'd already arrived? The Great Big Romanian Invasion (BBC1) was Samuels's look at what brought them here and how they've been greeted.
This isn't the first documentary we've seen exploring attitudes to immigration – it's not even the first this week – and by now two things are clear: (1) Convincing a Ukip councillor to talk nonsense is no test of an interviewer's skill; (2) If you've seen one angry vox pop, you've seem then all.
Yet, in the geographical sense at least, Samuels went further than the likes of Nick and Margaret have ever bothered to. He actually got on a plane and visited the home village of Romanian-in-London, Ion, 60 miles outside Bucharest. Now we begin to understand why three weeks of sleeping rough might appeal.
More illuminating still was Samuels' visit to the National Archives accompanied by his father. There, they found newspapers cuttings detailing the 1890s Romanian "invasion" of which their ancestors were a part. Mass immigration might seem like a very modern concern but those headlines – detailing fear of wage deflation, crime, and cultural dilution – could have been written yesterday. As Samuels concluded: "It's almost as if there's something universal round our attitude to immigration which just doesn't change: that fear of the other."
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