Created by Hannah Lee, The Pitch 2015

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'Hagar' is a drama about a young refugee forced into surrogacy to save a couple's marriage. Having lost everything in the Syrian war, Hagar travels to England to start a new life. When her asylum request is refused, Home Office official Sarah sees an opportunity. Sarah's marriage to Abraham is under strain. They desperately want a child but cannot conceive and won't adopt – Sarah thinks Abraham wouldn't forgive her if he didn't father a child himself. Sarah offers Hagar a deal: asylum, a home and a job, in exchange for a secret surrogacy. Desperate to avoid deportation, Hagar agrees. But she's torn between resentment and yearning for her unborn child. Tensions rise as Sarah becomes jealous of Abraham's bond with Hagar. When Sarah unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she calls off the deal. The child that was Hagar's lifeline becomes her undoing. In a final, bitter confrontation with the couple, Hagar's worst fears are realised and she faces deportation again – now heavily pregnant. But as she leaves, she takes the brave decision to protect and raise this unwanted child. I developed this script alongside director Aggie Nyagari, an experienced filmmaker with a passion for exploring social mores and personal journeys.

Biblical Connection

I was inspired by Genesis 16 and 21. When Sarah cannot conceive, she sends her slave Hagar to sleep with her husband Abraham. Hagar and her child (by Abraham) are exiled when Sarah has her own son. Other versions of this story appear in Judaism and Islam, so it has a rich cultural resonance. I'm struck by the emotional honesty of the biblical tale, especially the bitterness between the two women. I chose to set the story in the current refugee crisis, as a contemporary analogy for an Egyptian slave who is displaced and at the mercy of a privileged couple. Also, the dilemmas of infertility and unwanted pregnancy are still painfully relevant today. I wanted to explore the gaps in the biblical text. How did Sarah feel about being childless? How did she go from sacrificing her exclusive relationship with Abraham in order to become a mother, to dismissing her child as 'that woman's son' (Genesis 21:10)? I'm fascinated by the complexity of Hagar's character. In Genesis, she despises Sarah for having to carry her child. I wanted to explore this struggle and how Hagar ultimately finds a sense of belonging in motherhood.