Vanessa Redgrave makes directorial debut with film exposing refugee crisis

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BRITAIN-ENTERTAINMENT/

A hard-hitting film directed by Vanessa Redgrave which exposes the reality of the refugee crisis across Europe is set to be launched in London.

Sea Sorrow is the Academy Award-winner's debut as a director, and also takes her a step further in her long-standing campaign to protect the rights of refugees.

She said the film, being screened at Hammersmith Town Hall on Tuesday, will make viewers feel "stronger" and encourage solidarity with refugees.

The 79-year-old told the Press Association: "We all get tired, we've got to be reminded of the deeper things that make it worthwhile to live and to help others, and that's really why we made this film.

Vanessa Redgrave.
(Yui Mok/PA)

"People who see the film, I absolutely know it, will feel stronger, whether they are refugees or not."

The film recounts stories of life for refugees fleeing European war zones throughout the last century, and features actors Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson, as well as TV presenter Anita Rani and Labour's Lord Alfred Dubs, who was rescued from Nazi Germany by the Kindertransport programme when he was six.

Producing the film with her son Carlo Nero took Vanessa to places such as Greece, Lebanon, Italy and Calais, just months after she suffered a heart attack last April.

But Vanessa, who has supported refugee charities for more than 25 years, said "you can't forget" the cause.

Vanessa Redgrave
(Lauren Hurley/PA)

"First and foremost it was my horror at the fact so many refugees were dying who should have been given safe passage, and could have been given safe passage," she said.

"I thought of it before but when the little boy Alan Kurdi was found washed up, that was the moment that said 'get going, get started'.

"The numbers through 2015 of those being drowned was just appalling, and they could have all been saved.

"Secondly, it's about helping the NGOs help the survivors. It seems to have been nothing but war ever since, in some way or another."

The mother and son team added that the release of the film, which is also set to be screened in Cambridge and Manchester as well as online in the new year, is particularly timely in the lead-up to Christmas.

Vanessa Redgrave
(Yui Moi/PA)

Nero said: "There's a degree of providence and serendipity in that we have completed it around this time.

"We have to remember that the Christmas celebration in the religious sense is about persecution and a family of refugees in the Middle East - that is the story and it is our story."

Vanessa added: "Somehow they managed. Some shepherds helped them and didn't tell the police, or check that they had the correct passports."

Her film pays special attention to the work of Lord Dubs, who she described as devoting "every minute of his life" to refugee support, and of individuals through history who have fought to make changes.

"Our most precious legal conventions on human rights became law after the defeat of fascism, and that was due to the fantastic work of people all over the world.

"I am inclined to see what's basically very heart-warming, sometimes I see that in situations where other people might say the opposite.

"Ever since I was little, when I've gone out to get help there have always been people ready to help, in anything I've done, always."

About bringing these stories together into a film, she added: "We want to keep the humanity in all of us alive."