Magazine article Screen International

'Sea Sorrow': Cannes Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Sea Sorrow': Cannes Review

Article excerpt

Vanessa Redgrave delivers a thoughtful documentary on the global refugee crisis

Dir: Vanessa Redgrave UK 2016. 74 mins

The personal and the political are carefully intertwined in Sea Sorrow, the directorial debut of veteran actor and human rights activist Vanessa Redgrave. Reflecting on the global refugee crisis, the 80 year-old Redgrave combines reportage, historical context, memoir and agitprop to create a thoughtful documentary that serves as a call to embrace a shared humanity with the vulnerable and displaced. A Cannes platform will raise the profile of a modest production that should find its audience at festival screenings and one-off events allowing further discussion of the issues it raises.

Sincere and wide-ranging but never hectoring

Sea Sorrow is a continuation of the recent work Redgrave has created with her producer/son Carlo Nero through their Dissent Projects and follows on from documentaries Wake Up World (2005), The Killing Fields (2011) and Bosnia Rules (2014). It is a response to the death of three year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi and to the belief that the British government was failing to take a fair share of refugees from around the world.

Initially, it has the feel of a more substantial television news report. Individual refugees from Afghanistan and Guinea tell stories of lengthy journeys to escape war-torn homelands and reach the safety of Europe. There is footage of rubble-strewn wastelands where once stood the homes of thousands, and scenes of London marchers proudly proclaiming that " Refugees Are Welcome Here".

Redgrave keeps everything simple and direct, fading to black between testimonies and creating links through close-ups of shimmering gold foil. Archive footage is used sparingly but effectively and includes Eleanor Roosevelt commending the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights in 1948.

The film gradually expands in scope and ambition. …

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