Cannes: Vanessa Redgrave's Doc, Michael Haneke's 'Happy End' Shine a Light on Global Refugee Crisis

Fabrizio Maltese
Vanessa Redgrave, director of the documentary 'Sea Sorrow'

Alejandro Inarritu's VR installation also attempts to explore what human rights organizations call the greatest global migration since the end of WWII.

The global refugee crisis has slipped out of the headlines in recent months, but the plight of the millions of migrants worldwide is in sharp focus at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Documentaries, dramas and even a virtual reality installation attempt to shine new light on what human rights organizations call the greatest global migration since the end of WWII, with an estimated 65 million people displaced or on the move worldwide.

They range from Vanessa Redgrave's documentary Sea Sorrow, a heartfelt, straightforward plea for empathy; to Global Nomads, a collection of 17 award-winning European films on refugees that VOD aggregator Under The Milky Way is presenting at the festival and will be releasing worldwide on World Refugee Day, June 20; to Jupiter's Moon, the competition title from Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, in which a Syrian refugee, trying to flee to Europe, is shot and suddenly develops supernatural powers.

“My idea was to take a contradiction: an Islamic refugee who becomes an angel,” Mundruczo told The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a way to talk about the topic without being politically correct, or politically incorrect, I hope it is a film that doesn't give you the answers we already have.”

Still to come is Michael Haneke's Happy End, a family drama starring Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant set against the backdrop of the “Calais Jungle,” the encampment where thousands of migrants gathered, trying to cross the channel to the U.K. The drama looks, like Haneke's Cache, to be an examination of the dark currents running beneath the surface of European society.

And in his project Carne y Arena, the first virtual reality film to ever screen in Cannes, The Revenant director Alejandro Inarritu literally dives below the surface, using the latest in visual technology put viewers in the shoes of immigrants trying to cross the Mexican border into the U.S.

The tools and the styles of the films vary widely, but the message on refugees, and the growing crisis, is the same. 
“The issue is not only a moral and human question,” says Redgrave. “After all it could be any one of us.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 21 Cannes daily issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.