Situated some 200km off Italy's southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi highly appreciated the movie, stating that he would carry with him 27 DVD copies of the film to a session of the European Council. Each one of the copies was given to a head of state or government of the European Union. See more »
The subject of this documentary is Lampedusa, a small Italian island south of Sicily. The camera follows the ordinary activities of its local inhabitants while also exposing the migrants who end up there on crowded makeshift boats: Africans fleeing despair and persecution from their various homelands.
The style of this film is cinema-vérité, simply observing the various subjects in a very quiet way. Most of the attention is given to the island residents, particularly a twelve-year old boy. In the beginning, there are occasional feelings of boredom but once getting used to the meditative style, the movie is quite rewarding.
At first, one might wonder why there is less attention on the migrants but this eventually becomes understandable. If they had been the main subject, it is possible the viewer would feel overwhelmed and numb by the end. The smaller number of scenes end up having a greater impact. While not always horrific, the viewer sees up close the people behind the headlines - the migrants as well as the rescuers. Emotions run high before the viewer is bought back to daily routine life on the island which seems very distant from the lives of the migrants.
Director Gianfranco Rosi is very wise in avoiding any methods to heighten the real-life drama. The approach as a simple witness works perfectly especially in some highlighted scenes: the despair of a local doctor who is distressed by the plight of so many; a Nigerian refugee recounting the plight of his former country and finding more trouble in Libya as he and others traveled north; and of course, the indescribable feelings of seeing a large boat with hundreds of people cramped in it.
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