British actress Vanessa Redgrave attends a press briefing on her directorial debut film "Sea Sorrow" on the refugee crisis in Athens, Greece, on Sept. 21, 2017. Vanessa Redgrave brought her directorial debut film "Sea Sorrow" on the refugee crisis for a special screening in Athens on Friday evening. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
by Alexia Vlachou, Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Acclaimed British actress Vanessa Redgrave brought her directorial debut film "Sea Sorrow" on the refugee crisis for a special screening in Athens on Friday evening.
It is a part of the 23rd Athens International Film Festival "Opening Nights"which runs from September 20 to October 1.
Inspired by the photo of Alan, the little Syrian boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish shore in 2015 while his family was struggling to cross the Aegean sea to Greece, along thousands other refugees, Redgrave wrote the script for a documentary which chronicles the story of refugees in Europe since the 20th century.
The film is a personal and empowering reflection on today's global refugee crisis, as seen through the eyes of children and the voices of activists and artists in France, Britain, Italy and Greece.
Risking their lives, thousands of refugees have abandoned their war-stricken countries in search of a better future.
Since September 2015, more than 8,500 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean alone, according to the UN refugee agency.
Redgrave criticized European governments over their response to the refugee crisis during a press conference held on the eve of the screening in the Greek capital.
She praised Greek people for setting an example to the world by showing solidarity to refugees arriving on the shores of the Aegean islands, despite the economic crisis that has hit their country.
In 2016 she visited refugee centers in Greece where she had the opportunity to talk with refugees and migrants. "I did say, and I say it in the film that the Greek people gave a lesson in humanity," she said.
During the film, Redgrave recounts moments from her own past as a war child when she was relocated away from London at the start of World War II.
"We have a poster by the Ministry of Health showing a British woman with a headscarf at the times carrying a baby in her arms, a little boy in one hand, a young girl in the other hand. She is walking through streets that had been bombed and it says, "It could be you" in large letters and underneath "Helping the evacuees is a national duty"," Redgrave said, noting that this is not the case today, as some countries turn their back on refugees.
Dedicating this film to the thousands of refugees who have died in lack of support and protection, the award-winning actress hopes to support the humanitarian groups who do their utmost to support the refugees who have survived, most especially children.
"I cannot live peacefully without doing something for refugees, especially for refugee children. It's as simple as that," she said during the press conference.
During the festival film-goers will have the chance to choose among 108 full feature films and 57 short films.
The Athens Film Society which founded and organizes the festival aiming to highlight genres of independent cinema and introduce Greeks to some of the best productions of the year. It is estimated that more than 60,000 people will pack the cinemas this year.
"The festival's motto this year is Films for All... The major tribute this year is entitled Cinema and Disability. We hope that we will launch a discussion between people with disabilities and the state so that the latter will help them enjoy movies, theatre plays and music concerts as we enjoy them," Loukas Katsikas, the festival's artistic director, told Xinhua.
For first time this year Greek people with disabilities will have the chance to attend a foreign film screening with audio description. In previous years during the festival, organizers introduced the subtitles for Greek movies.