The Flood opens with these words: “Currently some 70 million individuals have been forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, and violence around the world… Over 18,000 have died while trying to reach Europe in the last five years alone.”
Based on interviews with migrants and ex-Home Office officials, this dignified and dramatic film describes the horrors and risks endured by people seeking refuge in Europe, and the chilling, politicised calculations of the UK border agency.
It begins when police stop a truck speeding through the Kent countryside. A man leaps from the back, wielding a knife, is wrestled to the ground and arrested. The man, Haile, claims asylum.
What then unfolds, through recorded interviews by desensitised immigration officer Wendy and her sneering boss Philip — under pressure from Home Office spin doctors to deport Haile — is a series of flashbacks to his 5,000 km journey by foot, lorry, boat and prison van, from persecution and torture in his homeland of Eritrea.
Understated, with restrained, humane performances, and shot in muted blues and browns under filtered, flat lighting, with a heartrending soundtrack, the film nevertheless startles and shocks.
Raids, ruthless traffickers and sickness characterise a portrayal of the Jungle at Calais (part of the film is shot on location there).
Lives are lost. Asylum seekers are mocked, disbelieved and incarcerated in sleepless cells. But there is hope. Divisions of nationality and occupation evolve movingly into common purpose, compassion and active solidarity.
It’s a tense wait to find out the heartstopping reason why Haile jumped out with a knife.
What is “The Flood”? The metaphor is from the Tory press, framing refugees as tides, threatening to “swamp” destination countries.
But who is in danger of drowning but the people forced to risk their lives in broken boats on freezing seas around Fortress Europe? What kind of society deepens the trauma of such survivors through imprisonment, isolation, interrogation and terror of deportation? What kind of society says an immigration officer can’t do her job properly if she cares about the fate of an asylum seeker?
This film resounds with humanity, authenticity and clarity. Home Office politicians and officials should be forced to watch it, and it deserves a high profile release across Europe, especially at this time when right wing forces are targeting migrants to fan the flames of racism and division.