Flood and guts
Powerful leads in important film by director who worked in Calais’s infamous ‘jungle’ refugee camp, follows migrant’s journey to Britain
20 June, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Ivanno Jeremiah gives a quiet, intense performance as Haile in The Flood
Directed by Anthony Woodley
THE lorry trundles up the M20 with a cargo of sugar in the back. The driver is smoking cigarettes and listening to the radio, doing what appears to be a normal day’s work… until a police car flags him down and officers ask to look inside.
As the doors swing open, a number of stories tumble out – and we are sucked into the world of migration and movement, of innocents caught between traffickers and red tape as they try to rest, recuperate and repair.
The Flood focuses on the journey undertaken by one person hidden among pallet crates, and is timely and deeply effective. We meet Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah) when he is under lock and key, taken from the back of the lorry and incarcerated in a cold cell in a cold country that he thought might offer some of form of welcome.
And when he isn’t locked behind a door, he sits in front of an Immigration Service officer, handcuffed, being asked questions that he has the answers to – but isn’t sure, due to the tone of the interview, whether being truthful is what they want from him.
Haile has come to Britain from Eritrea, fleeing a conflict in which he was forced to join the army and was expected to commit atrocities against civilians – and when he couldn’t, he was forced to be a criminal.
Director Anthony Woodley worked as a volunteer in the infamous “jungle” refugee camp in Calais and he has drawn on the experience, with scriptwriter Helen Kingston referencing the stories he heard.
From these sources, Haile’s story has been created, and we follow him, through the use of flashbacks, as he journeys north, across seas to Italy, then on to France and Calais – before learning how he made it over the Channel in the hope that he might find some peace and safety.
Across the table is Wendy (Lena Headey), a bureaucrat under pressure from her bosses to show no compassion towards those she has to interview, to assume the worst and create hoops and hurdles to negotiate.
But Wendy is a frail human being – an alcoholic, she has lost custody of her daughter.
It creates an interesting juxtaposition: here is a man who has travelled across continents, not knowing where he will sleep that night or where the next meal will come from, seeing death in front of him, all with the pain of leaving a home and life behind, being really rather together – haunted by nightmares but with a self-awareness and stoicism.
Then you have Wendy, who has a job, a home, and a wage to spend – yet she is fragile. It shows the writer’s willingness to ask the viewer to question assumptions, and to accept that humans carry burdens that are based on a mixture of personal experience and how one reacts to their surroundings.
Will Haile be given leave to remain? Or will he be sent back to Italy, or Eritrea?
Jeremiah’s quiet, intense performance is such that you hope not only that he gets a visa but more immediately that he finds somewhere to lay his head for a moment.
This is no-frills film-making: but it doesn’t need frills. The power of the two leads, and the authentic feeling of those who are around them, is enough: it could be performed effectively on an empty stage.
The Flood is not just well acted, well directed, well written: it is an important message for the UK. It is a call for us to rediscover our humanity and compassion. It is about fighting populism and other anti-immigration forces.
It is about raising your mind up to ignore artificially created borders and act holistically, to help people in their country of origin, and when they are forced to embark on a perilous journey to a haven, be ready to show what makes us good: compassion to others, to help where we can.