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UK human rights crisis: Olivia Colman film on baby death tragedy from black mould launches 'terrifyingly urgent' rights campaign

Award-winning actors Olivia Colman and Adrian Lester are starring in a gripping new short film released today (Wednesday 28 Febuary) by Amnesty International UK, as the organisation calls attention to a national human rights crisis happening in the UK.


The film entitled Before Our Eyes[1]’, takes the form of a trailer for a supposed new drama starring the renowned actors as part of a stunt designed to capture the public’s attention. Short teaser clips had an unbranded digital release on 29 January 2024 for the upcoming “new drama”, ahead of today’s launch (28 February) of the full trailer revealing ‘Before Our Eyes’ for what it really is – in the words of the lead actors – “This isn’t drama, this is real life”.  


The film thrusts viewers into the heart-wrenching reality of a young mother trapped in a broken housing system. Evicted and then re-housed in temporary accommodation that’s riddled with black mould resulting in the baby’s death.

Amnesty's aim is not just to expose this unacceptable truth but to underscore that this is just one of many attacks on human rights unfolding in the UK. For more than a decade, the UK has systematically dismantled a staggering number of vital human rights protections.

Britain risks fast losing its self-proclaimed position as a global leader in upholding human rights. The film seeks to jolt the country’s conscience to take urgent action to recognise the scale of human rights violations happening all around us.

The right to a basic standard of living required to maintain human dignity has been severely eroded forcing millions of people to struggle each day to access what they need in order to live: secure shelter, being able to put enough food on the table, parents’ ability to clothe their children or get access to adequate health care.

The denial of human rights often seems a distant problem, something we only see on our screens or read about in far-away places. But this isn’t drama, it’s real life here in the UK.

According to recent Government statistics in England alone, more than 100,000 families are living in temporary accommodation, with nearly 139,000 children in England homeless or in temporary accommodation. Since 2019, at least 34 children in England have died in temporary accommodation.

Despite the UK’s role in championing the right to an adequate standard of living in international law – including food and housing, the right to health, education and access to benefits – under the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, these protections have not then been transposed in to UK law and are being violated in the day to day lives of many people across the country.

Even though none of these basic necessities are as yet protected as a human right in UK law, new research commissioned this month from Opinium by Amnesty shows that 73% of adults in the UK feel access to decent and secure housing should be; 79% feel the same about access to physical and mental healthcare should, and 75% feel access to adequate food should also be legally protected as a human right.  

Before Our Eyes is a wake-up call, urging people across the country to demand change and become active in the fight to protect human rights in the UK.

Olivia Colman, Amnesty International UK Ambassador: “It's easy to feel like we do enough, that human rights are for someone else to handle. We're so accustomed to seeing human rights violations in other countries across the world that many of us believe these abuses are far away and have nothing to do with us. But in reality, they are happening right on our doorstep - human rights in the UK are under threat, and I hope this film will spur people on and encourage them to tune in and take action.”

Adrian Lester, Amnesty International supporter: “This story is painfully common in the UK and most of us don’t even realise that this kind of thing is going on. We often look outside our borders when we think of human rights and don’t realise that access to housing, healthcare, food, and more is deteriorating in our own country. And even when we do recognise this, we don’t connect it to violations of human rights happening before our eyes, on our doorstep. But that’s what it is. There is such blatant inequality in the lives of people here in the UK. We need to find ways to talk about these problems so that things can change.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said: “The need to act on human rights violations here in the UK is terrifyingly urgent. The brutal real-life suffering that people are facing right here and right now is something none of us should ignore and it will continue to get worse unless we as a country open our eyes and act.  

“We hope the film will be a catalyst for people across the UK to join the fight for rights and say that safe housing, enough healthy food, good and timely healthcare aren’t ‘nice to-haves’ - these are basic human rights which we expect our own Government to protect.  

“We need new, firm commitments from political leaders across all parties to protect people’s basic rights and effective ways to enforce those commitments. It’s not just the right thing to do to protect our own citizens, it is critical to protecting the UK’s global position as a leader in rights and standards in law, and a country that the world believes practices what we preach.”  

About the film:

‘Before Our Eyes’ tells the story of Anna, a young mother who, alone with her newborn baby Grace, is homeless and helplessly watching her daughter’s health deteriorate as a result of the shocking conditions they are placed in by the housing authority – and ultimately leading to her baby’s tragic death.  

When the council denies all responsibility, Anna (Bea Svistunenko) turns to ex-lawyer and ally, Mary (Olivia Colman) to help her take them to court. In a relentless pursuit for justice, Mary comes up against disillusioned council worker Richard (Adrian Lester), exposing a broken system where people like Anna and Grace fall through the cracks, and people like Mary are silenced. As their court date comes closer, Anna struggles to balance the grief and guilt she feels over Grace’s death with her need to speak out as Mary begins to question everything and fight for justice.

From today, the short film will move from the digital sphere to cinemas and adverts in train stations, the London underground and billboards across the country to make people aware that human rights in the UK are under threat and there is an urgent need for action. 

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