LONDON • Actress Vanessa Redgrave makes her directing debut in London on Tuesday with a film about refugees, featuring fellow stage stars Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson.
Sea Sorrow recounts the life of refugees fleeing European war zones throughout the last century and aims to have an impact on viewers.
"We all get tired, we've got to be reminded of the deeper things that make it worthwhile to live and to help others, and that's really why we made this film," Redgrave, 79, said.
The Oscar-winning actress filmed Sea Sorrow in countries including France, Greece, Italy and Lebanon, beginning the project last year after an image of a Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach went viral.
"First and foremost, it was my horror at the fact so many refugees were dying, who should have been given safe passage, and could have been given safe passage," she said.
"I thought of it before, but when the little boy Alan Kurdi was found washed up, that was the moment that said 'get going, get started'."
Nearly 12,000 people have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean Sea since the start of 2014, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency.
After a peak of more than one million sea arrivals in Europe last year, more than 350,000 people have made the crossing so far this year.
Redgrave also drew on 20th-century experiences for her film, featuring Lord Alfred Dubs, who earlier this year campaigned to have more child refugees brought to Britain.
The Labour politician was a child refugee himself, brought to Britain under the "Kindertransport" programme which helped children flee Nazi persecution.
Sea Sorrow, which will be screened at London's Hammersmith Town Hall, was produced by Redgrave and her son Carlo Nero, who said it had particular significance at Christmas. Nero, 47, is her son with her second husband, actor Franco Nero, 75.
"We have to remember that the Christmas celebration in the religious sense is about persecution and a family of refugees in the Middle East - that is the story and it is our story," Carlo Nero said.