Veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave directed Sea Sorrow – a documentary about refugees  which had its premiere at Cannes last week. Courtesy Festival de Cannes
Veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave directed Sea Sorrow – a documentary about refugees which had its premiere at Cannes last week. Courtesy Festival de Cannes

Cannes film fest: Veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave on what inspired her to direct Sea Sorrow



At the age of 80, veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave has turned her hand to directing a film for the first time.

For her debut, she chose a documentary about the refugee crisis, in which the personal and the political are intimately intertwined.

Sea Sorrow, which had its premiere in Cannes last week, links Redgrave's experience as a child evacuee during the Second World War to the plight of the huge number of displaced people fleeing conflicts now.

While the Oscar-winner was afforded comfort in her hour of need, at a relative’s house in Herefordshire, England, those making the hazardous trip to Europe from the Middle East often face obstruction, detention and deportation – if they survive the journey.

The war was a defining moment for Redgrave. Even when she was as young as 4, she says she thought: “What can I do to help?”

Together with a fellow evacuee, a 6-year-old boy who was also staying in the home of her mother’s cousin, she put on plays “for the sailors [her father, Michael, was in the merchant navy] trying to bring food during the war” to raise money – charging half-a-penny for admission.

“Being prepared to be killed to try to get food in to feed people is saving life, and we wanted to help people save lives. And I’ve basically wanted to do that my whole life,” she says.

More than 70 years later, she watched as upheaval in the region sparked a growing refugee crisis.

“I was one of those that rejoiced in the Arab Spring,” says Redgrave, “and I have always been very conscious of the huge powers behind dictatorships and oppressive regimes.

“But I knew trouble was coming, because there were so many powers that were coming and going: ‘Here we are. We’re so glad to see you all, after the Arab Spring’. When I saw David Cameron going to Cairo, I thought: ‘Oh my God. Trouble’.”

Redgrave “donated money and things” as the crisis deepened, and staged a theatrical production to raise money for the British Refugee Council.

She was moved to start work on her documentary after seeing the shocking photograph of 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi dead on a beach – “this little baby lying face down, on the edge of the water in Bodrom”.

Aylan and his family were in a dinghy that capsized, killing him, his mother and his sister. His father survived.

A playwright friend of Redgrave, Martin Sherman, who appears in her film, told her he had made the same two-kilometre journey that the Kurdis had been making – from Bodrom to Kos – on a commercial ferry.

“I thought, ‘My God, that family got into a rubber dinghy – they should have been given free tickets [for] a ferry’,” she says, thumping the table in anger. “So why weren’t they given free tickets? You know, ‘Come aboard, we’ll help you escape from the war’.

“Their city [Kobani] had been under siege by ISIL. They were trying to save their children’s lives to give them a future.”

Her outrage at the needless deaths ignited her desire to draw attention to the plight of such refugees.

“I’m very primitive in my mind,” she says.

“So I think, ‘Who is responsible for their deaths? Those who refused to give them the legal tickets ... to cross – European governments’.”

The documentary shows this is nothing new. In the 1930s, governments, including Britain’s, closed the door to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. They got away with it, says Redgrave, because they kept the truth from the public.

“Brave correspondents were trying get across the horrors from the beginning,” she says. “But a wall went up around Britain because the British government didn’t want it to be known.”

In 1948, the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and later conventions, should have prevented the kind of human catastrophe the world is witnessing.

Redgrave recalls listening to its announcement on the radio.

“It was very vivid, but there was a scene which was to do with no torture, and that made my hair stand on end,” she says.

Governments now are falling short of the convention's principles, Sea Sorrow suggests, and even breaking international laws in their treatment of refugees. It shows people power can make a difference, though, and Redgrave hopes her film might be part of that.

“I hope being chosen for Cannes is a big help and more people will come and see it,” she says, adding that change has got to be “based in help, not hope – because when people help, they create a new situation, a new field of energy”.

artslife@thenational.ae

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Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Company profile

Company name: Tuhoon
Year started: June 2021
Co-founders: Fares Ghandour, Dr Naif Almutawa, Aymane Sennoussi
Based: Riyadh
Sector: health care
Size: 15 employees, $250,000 in revenue
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SPECS

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What is cystic fibrosis?
  • Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas and other organs.
  • It causes the production of thick, sticky mucus that can clog the airways and lead to severe respiratory and digestive problems.
  • Patients with the condition are prone to lung infections and often suffer from chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Life expectancy for sufferers of cystic fibrosis is now around 50 years.
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Engine 8.4L V10

Transmission Six-speed manual

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Torque 813Nm @ 5,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 16.8L / 100km

THE DRAFT

The final phase of player recruitment for the T10 League has taken place, with UAE and Indian players being drafted to each of the eight teams.

Bengal Tigers
UAE players: Chirag Suri, Mohammed Usman
Indian: Zaheer Khan

Karachians
UAE players: Ahmed Raza, Ghulam Shabber
Indian: Pravin Tambe

Kerala Kings
UAE players: Mohammed Naveed, Abdul Shakoor
Indian: RS Sodhi

Maratha Arabians
UAE players: Zahoor Khan, Amir Hayat
Indian: S Badrinath

Northern Warriors
UAE players: Imran Haider, Rahul Bhatia
Indian: Amitoze Singh

Pakhtoons
UAE players: Hafiz Kaleem, Sheer Walli
Indian: RP Singh

Punjabi Legends
UAE players: Shaiman Anwar, Sandy Singh
Indian: Praveen Kumar

Rajputs
UAE players: Rohan Mustafa, Ashfaq Ahmed
Indian: Munaf Patel

The Baghdad Clock

Shahad Al Rawi, Oneworld

South Africa squad

Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen (wicketkeeper), Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

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It is many times times stronger than steel, yet incredibly lightweight and flexible. It is electrically and thermally conductive but also transparent. The world's first 2D material, it is one million times thinner than the diameter of a single human hair.

But the 'sticky tape' method would not work on an industrial scale. Since then, scientists have been working on manufacturing graphene, to make use of its incredible properties.

In 2010, Geim and Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Their discovery meant physicists could study a new class of two-dimensional materials with unique properties. 

 

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COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

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Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

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Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

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A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

Brief scoreline:

Manchester United 1

Mata 11'

Chelsea 1

Alonso 43'

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8.50pm: Handicap Dh 175,000 1,600m
9.25pm: Handicap Dh 175,000 1,200m
10pm: Handicap Dh 165,000 1,600m

 

 

Need to know

Unlike other mobile wallets and payment apps, a unique feature of eWallet is that there is no need to have a bank account, credit or debit card to do digital payments.

Customers only need a valid Emirates ID and a working UAE mobile number to register for eWallet account.

Company profile: buybackbazaar.com

Name: buybackbazaar.com

Started: January 2018

Founder(s): Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini

Based: Dubai

Sector: FinTech, micro finance

Initial investment: $1 million

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others