'The Flood' Director on His New Film About Refugee Crisis, Starring 'Game Of Thrones'' Lena Headey

Film writer Helen Kingston had been stuck in traffic on a mild summer's day in 2014 when she flipped on the radio to hear about a tragic scene unfolding at Tilbury Docks, just about an hour outside Britain's capital, London.

Workers at the docks had been shocked to hear screaming and banging ringing out from inside a shipping container. When they unlocked its doors, they found 35 people inside, including 15 children. They also discovered the lifeless body of 40-year-old Meet Singh Kapoor who, along with the rest of the group, had risked his life to make the difficult journey from Afghanistan to Britain, in hopes of a brighter future.

Kingston couldn't have known at the time that in the months ahead, the European refugee crisis would come to dominate headlines around the world. What she did know, however, was that there was a story to be told about the people who risk their lives on a daily basis to make deadly journeys to countries like Britain and the United States in hopes of refuge.

Fast forward nearly five years and the story Kingston sought to tell is set to reach theatres across Britain this Friday on World Refugee Week.

Starring Game of Thrones actors Lena Headey and Iain Glen and Humans co-star Ivanno Jeremiah, The Flood tells the story of an Eritrean asylum seeker (Jeremiah) who is arrested by British police after leaping out of a truck brandishing a knife after officers stop the vehicle's driver for speeding.

After his arrest makes headlines, Jeremiah's character, Haile, finds himself at the mercy of a hardened immigration officer (Headey), who is asked to take his case, given her reputation for swiftly rejecting applicants.

As Headey's character comes to realize, however, Haile's case may not be as clear-cut as her superiors, including Glen, might want it to be.

In an interview with Newsweek, director of The Flood Anthony Woodley said that when he first heard Kingston's idea of how to portray the plight of refugees on the big screen, he was immediately keen to take part.

"Then, the more we researched the more we realized just how long and how dangerous the journey these people go on can be and I thought, I haven't really seen that in a film before," he said. "I had seen it in documentaries, but I felt like this was a story and a journey that needed to be told."

Woodley said Headey, best known for her role as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, was also quick to sign on to the film, as a celebrity who has championed refugee rights.

"Obviously," Woodley said, all three of the film's main stars "care a lot about the subject."

But, he said, "Lena especially has been working with the International Rescue Committee she's been to Greece and she's been helping raise awareness around the refugee plight for quite awhile."

When Headey read the script, Woodley said she "loved it."

"We went through the whole system very quickly. Her agent read it first and then next thing you know [Headey] wanted to meet us," he said. "We had this incredible meeting where we all just clicked and connected and it became apparent that we all wanted to make the same film and tell the same message."

Still, the film director said it was Kingston's powerful script that was ultimately responsible for getting names like Headey and Glen behind the project, with Headey also coming on as executive producer of The Flood.

Woodley, said that he, Kingston and the film's producer Luke Healey all spent time volunteering in France's Calais Jungle, a camp where many asylum seekers were forced to stay in their journey to get the UK, to gain a better grasp of the hurdles asylum seekers trying to get to Britain face before embarking on the project.

"They said it's a place where dreams come to die because a lot of people get stuck there for months and months and months, you know, trying to get to England in this sort of limbo," Woodley said.

"It's a very sad place to be...Seeing how far they've traveled as quickly as they have just to get to this point and then be stuck there sometimes for six months or a year. And it's only the young ones who manage to get on the lorries and get through. The older ones and sick ones get left behind," he said.

After meeting many asylum seekers desperate to make it to Britain, Woodley said that what he really wanted his film to communicate was that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are not "lazy"; they are not trying to "steal your jobs" and they are not trying to exploit welfare or benefits programs.

"We wanted to just tell a good story where the lead character just so happens to be a refugee and the incredible journey that he's gone on and to show people that these people are not lazy. They have traveled across the world and put themselves in danger and to think that they're just coming here to steal your jobs? It's just... insane.

"They are obviously trying to get away from something horrendous," he said.

While parts of The Flood are inspired by the 2014 incident at Tilbury Docks, the film's creators "made a choice not to single out any individual person" or event as the center of their story, Woodley said. Instead, they wanted to try to tell a story that showed different aspects of the hurdles asylum seekers face based on the many accounts they heard from asylum seekers from around the world at the Calais Jungle.

"There were so many stories and they were so varied and different," he added.

Woodley said that the decision to make Jeremiah's character an Eritrean asylum seeker was made in a bid to "tell the story of someone who is going to have a harder time of applying for asylum."

"Eritrea has an appalling human rights record, as well as forced conscription into the army," the director explained. Yet, over the years, many Eritrean asylum seekers have struggled to see their asylum applications approved in Britain.

As Headey's character, Wendy, says at one point in the film of Haile's case, "this is the easiest rejection of the week. He attacked a police officer. He is clearly an economic migrant with no dependents in the UK."

But as Wendy soon comes to realize, Haile's story and the stories of so many others who risk their lives to make it to countries like Britain and the U.S., become far less easy to dismiss when we decide to actually sit down and listen to them.

The Flood
'The Flood' debuts in Britain during World Refugee Week.
'The Flood' Director on His New Film About Refugee Crisis, Starring 'Game Of Thrones'' Lena Headey | Culture