Vanessa Redgrave’s directorial debut Sea Sorrow was showcased as part of the 23rd Athens International Film Festival.
The documentary, which chronicles the history refugees in Europe since the 20th century, was inspired by the photo that went viral in 2015 of Syrian boy Alan, who drowned while his family was crossing the Aegean sea to Greece, his little body found washed ashore in Turkey.
Debuting in Cannes earlier this year in May, the result is a personal and powerful film that explores today’s global refugee crisis through the eyes of the most vulnerable – children – with the input of activists and artists from across Greece, Italy, Britain and France.
The matter is one particularly close to Redgrave’s heart, revealed during the film when she recounts moments from her childhood when she together with her family relocated from London at the start of World War II.
On the eve of the screening in Athens, the filmmaker was vocal during a press conference, criticising the response of European governments to the crisis while praising the Greek people for setting a positive example.
Despite facing their own internal crisis, she said they had shown solidarity to refugees arriving on the shores of the Aegean islands, which she witnessed first hand during her visit to refugee centres in Greece in 2016.
“I did say, and I say it in the film that the Greek people gave a lesson in humanity,” Redgrave said.
The 80-year-old has dedicated Sea Sorrow to the thousands of refugees who died due to a lack of support and protection, and aims to support humanitarian groups helping refugees and their children.
“I cannot live peacefully without doing something for refugees, especially for refugee children,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”