In 2015, the photo of Aylan – the little Syrian boy found washed up on a Turkish beach – created a global outcry around the tragic fate of millions of refugees fleeing war-torn countries in hope of a better future. The event spurred Vanessa Redgrave, a fervent human rights activist, to write a documentary covering the history of refugees in Europe since the 20th century.
In her first film as director, Redgrave takes us across France, the UK, Italy and Greece in a mix of documentary and drama, brought to life by the voices of children, activists and actors. The title, Sea Sorrow, is taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest, in which Prospero urges his daughter to escape drowning at sea in a rotten boat. Recited by Oscar-winning actor Ralph Fiennes, the words 'perfectly capture the tragedy of refugees fleeing war and violent poverty in their countries only to drown at sea,' says the director.
Adding further impact to the story, the actress looks back at her own past as an 'evacuee' from London at the beginning of World War II and later, as a volunteer helping Hungarian refugees. before concluding with a visit to a primary school in a refugee camp in Lebanon. In shot after shot, Redgrave interweaves the past and and the present to raise questions about protection and security in the context of human rights.