The actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave in the service of refugees

Photo: Pedro Ruiz The Duty
The actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave

With her first documentary as a director, actress Vanessa Redgrave makes awareness-raising work in drawing attention to the plight of refugees in Europe.

In September 2015, the vision of the body of Alan Kurdi, three years ago, on a beach in Turkish shook the world. The small syrian refugee man was drowned with his mother and brother. Actress held liable if he is, Vanessa Redgrave, moved like many others by this tragedy, wanted to do something to raise awareness. It is as well that the huge actress realized, at the age of 80, his first documentary, Soreness of the sea (Sea Sorrow), which was unveiled in a special screening in Cannes, and was presented Saturday at the Festival du nouveau cinema.


The title is taken from a replica of the room The storm of Shakespeare. Prospero speaks of “sea sorrow” to evoke the fate of his daughter and him, which, driven out of Milan, took refuge on an island (Ralph Fiennes plays the scene). Accustomed to directory shakespeare, Vanessa Redgrave draws parallels between the words of the bard, and the fate of refugees today, evoking yet, in a story filmed in the refugee camp of Calais, Richard III.


Pain of the sea is very personal and punctuated with reminiscences, especially of the childhood of the director during the Second world War, but also of his participation, in 1956, aid to the refugees of the Hungarian revolution. His son, Carlo Nero, is the producer.


“I wanted to help people think, sums up Vanessa Redgrave about her approach. We do not have “built” the movie ; we had no scenario. The film has… taken form. “

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Shot in Greece, in Italy, in France and in Lebanon (where Vanessa Redgrave met once a palestinian refugee for the documentary, the Palestinian), the Pain of the sea gives immediately the floor to a refugee, Hamidi, a young man 22 years old who had fled Afghanistan.


“I left because there was still war in my country. One day, the Americans broke into our house and began to just search. I was small and I was afraid, and I was screaming “No ! No !” One of them killed my mother. He shot him between the eyes, in front of me, I keep silent. I screamed even louder, and they executed my father. I am saved by fear that they kill me too. “


Sudden sobriety, the witness enters, like the following. Percussion, the first few minutes show a succession of close-ups of the eyes of refugees. Strung together, the poignant, the stories of poverty, of parents killed, lands being bombarded.


In an interview, Carlo Nero reminds us : “too often We forget that refugees do not leave their country for the fun of it. They are most of the time forced to do so, particularly because they are persecuted. “


“Without border…” whispers Vanessa Redgrave in French.


Learn from the past


In fact, it emerges from the Pain of the sea, the impression that the very notion of boundary is arbitrary. Carlo Nero abounds : “The borders exist, of course, but they are mostly found in the minds of the people. “” They are first maintained by commercial interest, ” says Vanessa Redgrave.

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“Exactly,” adds his son. Commercial interests, and political, but it is at the bottom of a view of the mind. The borders are there only because humans have decided it. They maintain this idea and impose this idea. “


The producer, to illustrate the dangers inherent in this vision of the world, is back on the rise of nazism in Germany during the 1930s, recalling how his supporters managed to put forward a “nationalism fundamentalist” that led to the Holocaust.


“The nazis took this idea from the Germans by taking advantage of a difficult economic context,” says-t it.


“And because of the weakness of the opposition, sociodémocrate and policies of Stalin…” note Vanessa Redgrave.


The Second world War, as we have said, is very present in the film. Since his first intervention, the filmmaker returns to the universal Declaration of human rights, stated after the conflict. This is one of the fundamental issues of his film.


Responsibility media


Interestingly, one of the events in which the Pain of the sea has been invited to the international film Festival of human rights in Nuremberg, germany, where stood the trial of the allied forces against the leaders of the Third Reich. Vanessa Redgrave is said to have been witness of a great benevolence towards the refugees.


“We have been there a very important meeting with the president of the federal Office for migration and refugees. We found in conversations with a number of the Germans how much they care about human rights and political sharp of the UCS [Union of christian-social], that they think that the“alt-right”, the Alternative für Deutschland ” [Alternative for Germany], is a fascist party… We have learned a multitude of things horrifying, but at the same time, we found the real will of the people to help refugees. “

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This positive dimension, Vanessa Redgrave states that she and her son would have known nothing if they had not made the film. “We would certainly not learned through the media,” she continued. “They did more for the rise of extremism, anti-refugee “, intervenes Carlo Nero. “The media do not report the practical support, and constant, that provides the German people “, laments Vanessa Redgrave.


Positive Initiatives


Words that echo those of lord Alfred Dubs, a member who fought for England accepts 3000 refugee children in 2015-2016. He himself is a child of the Kindertransport, the humanitarian operation that saw England host 10,000 children, mostly jews, during the Second world War. In the documentary, lord Dubs note that the government has adopted its proposal, especially due to the pressures of the population, who, he says, has made fi ” horrors that wrote the media on refugees “.


At the same time, we think back to the presenter Anita Rani, in the film, says : “The rhetoric of ambient alienates us from humanity, and I am here to be surrounded by people who feel it, and to find this certainty that we all belong to the human race. “


It is here, at the bottom, the ultimate goal of the documentary : addressing the issue of refugees by focusing on positive initiatives, and especially by celebrating the courage of refugees.