Film

Vanessa Redgrave: 'Fascism is not just creeping in'

Vanessa Redgrave's directorial debut, a documentary about refugees titled "Sea Sorrow," opens the Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival. The Oscar-winning actress discusses Germany's election outcome.

Vanessa Redgrave (picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com)

DW: Mrs. Redgrave, was there any special reason that incited you to make your film "Sea Sorrow"?

Vanessa Redgrave: I didn't made a decision like that. I think things happen.

(Her son Carlo Nero, producer of the film, joins in the conversation): There was Aylan Kurdi, the little boy who was found on the beach. That was the famous image of the dead boy.

Redgrave: I was raising money anyway for a film performance about refugees. Then Aylan Kurdi, this little boy, died because his family wasn't given a safe ticket to get on a boat. There is a ferry between Bodrum and Kos. Why weren't they given tickets to escape? This is the question that's always on my mind.

Read more: 'The dying goes on,' complains father of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan

It was your first time as a film director. How was it for you?

My son Carlo produced it; he has directed a lot of films, and I couldn't have directed the film without him, without the creative input between the two of us.

What do you think about the election in Germany? Now there is anti-refugee party in parliament, the AfD, which built its campaign in reaction to refugee crisis, aiming to act against it.

It's a policy crisis. I won't accept it being called a refugee crisis. They've landed in the crisis, which is, they lost their homes and they won't get them back.

What do you expect from the German government?

I admire Angela Merkel. She did what she is bound by international human rights law to do; she's the only politician who is leading in the European Union. It's international law, the Geneva Convention on the right to asylum. It's a truth which has to be obeyed, it's a law. Any government breaking the law is committing a crime, and so is any party who wants the law to be broken.

In our Labour Party, our Liberal Democrats, there are honorable exceptions, individuals in each of those parties, but none of them have the Geneva Convention on their platform or speak out for it in parliament.

That's why we've got Brexit. That's why you've got this – it sounds really bad – this Alternative für Deutschland. Terrifying I would say.

Read more: Historian Moshe Zimmermann: 'AfD's success comparable to the rise of the Nazis'

Vanessa Redgrave visiting a temporary refugee camp outside the port of Piraeus in Greece in 2016 (picture-alliance/dpa/O.Panagiotou)

Vanessa Redgrave visiting a temporary refugee camp outside the port of Piraeus in Greece in 2016

Why did you accept the invitation to the Nuremberg International Film Festival of Human Rights?

Redgrave (laughs): They invited us and we said yes.

Carlo Nero: We thought it was very appropriate for our film. The human rights angle is the fundamental one. The film is really a human rights film. You express not only your personal story as a child evacuee [Eds. Vanessa Redgrave had to flee from German air raids on London during World War II], but it relates to the situation today. After the horrors of the Second World War, we have a legal obligation to help the refugees now.

In your film we see Labour politician Lord Alfred Dubs advocating for refugees. He also knows how it feels to flee war; as a child he emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Great Britain….

Nero: He is a magnificent example because he's been helping refugees his entire life. Alf Dubs said, if we don't do that and if we don't follow the laws and the conventions, than fascism will creep in. That's what happened in the Calais Jungle, when the local authorities used water canons and gas to disperse the refugees, to prove to the fascists of the National Front that they were being tough. And that's why we had this terrible referendum which is ended in the Brexit Vote. But Brexit was about refugees.

Redgrave: That's the warning of our film.

… a warning against creeping fascism?

Redgrave: No, it's not creeping in, it's coming in very violently. This is why we are showing our film: There is an alternative, and the alternative is the choice to take, and we need governments to take that choice to reach out their hands and find the ways to help the refugees. 

Vanessa Redgrave opened the Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival on September 27. The festival runs through October 4, 2017.

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