A documentary about the last five hours of a man’s life before he was made homeless has picked up a number of awards on the film festival circuit.
Deleted, directed by Stephan Pierre Mitchell, follows the story of 59-year-old Ahmed Hussein Siddiqi who lost his home after he slipped through the system.
Since the film’s release, Mr Siddiqi has died.
The short film has swept up six awards since its release – most recently winning Best Documentary at the British Urban Film Festival.
Pierre Mitchell, based in Elephant & Castle, said: “I have mixed feelings about the awards, and wish Mr Ahmed Hussein Siddiqi would have been here to see how he has touched so many people – not just in the UK but around the world.
For me, the wins and success of Deleted mean I think I’m realising more and more the responsibility I have in telling our stories from the heart, with pure intentions, and using that gift to lift others.”
About his most recent award, Pierre Mitchell said: “I was speechless and emotional that one man’s story has become a story that represents thousands.”
The title of the documentary comes from Mr Siddiqi, who said he felt deleted by the system.
His Universal Credit payments were suspended for three months after he failed to attend an appointment at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
He was sick at the time and needed to go to the doctor, but could not rearrange his DWP meeting because the lengthy automated phone call caused him to run out of credit.
Because of this, he fell behind on his payments and eventually lost his home.
Mr Mitchell said: “I wanted to look at the DWP to highlight the lack of personal interaction that is creating problems for people to access the services.
“The computerisation of services mean people are waiting months to get the help they need because there isn’t a person to speak to.
“People are sick of just being a number and the most vulnerable in our society need more help than just being passed through a bureaucratic system that doesn’t see the individual differences in people’s circumstances.”
The pair lived opposite each other, and met when Mr Siddiqi knocked on Pierre Mitchell’s door to ask for food.
Over the next few months they got to know each other – and Mr Siddiqi shared his ongoing problems with the DWP.
Mr Mitchell said: “I find Ahmed so brave and inspiring. He told me ‘I’m better off homeless than on a system so bureaucratic and dehumanising. I’d rather die on the street.’”
Siddiqi passed away in May 2019 from cancer and pneumonia after a year of living on the streets.
Pierre Mitchell said: “Living on the street so long without medication is what killed him.
“He already had serious health problems – which is why he was suspended from his Universal Credit payments in the first place – one year on the street and he didn’t know he had cancer then got pneumonia.
“He was rushed to hospital and in a coma for a few weeks then passed away. I’m devastated, everyone who watched the film said they felt so close to him.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.