For nearly two years of exploring the "Great Ring Road's" almost 70km of looping highway, Gianfranco Rosi brings to the foreground the daily routine of ordinary people, composing the profile of a microcosm on the outskirts of Great Rome.
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.
Official submission of Italy for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 89th Academy Awards in 2017. See more »
We stayed for many weeks in Sahara Desert. Many were dying with hunger. Many were drinking their piss. All to survive... We said, "God, don't let us die in the desert." And we got to Libya, and Libyans would not pity us. They would not save us because we are Africans. And they locked us in their prisons. Many went to prison for one year. Many went to prison for six years. Many died in their prison. Libyan prison was very terrible. No food in the prison. Every day beating, no water and many of ...
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Fifteen thousand people have died on their way from North Africa to the Italian island Lampedusa. That's five times as much as the number of casualties in the 9/11 attacks. The scale of this human tragedy is almost impossible to fathom.
And yet, that's exactly what director Gianfranco Rosi has tried to do in this documentary. He must have spent many months with the Italian coast guard, which tracks down the vessels with refugees. And he must have shot an immense quantity of footage, because it's clear he has selected only the best material.
The film doesn't explain or elaborate. It just shows, as a good movie is supposed to do. There is some very shocking footage, but also plenty of small, almost ordinary scenes like a beautiful shot of a helicopter taking off, or a doctor doing a check-up of a newly arrived refugee pregnant with twins.
But there are not only scenes of refugees. There is also daily life on the island, which we see through the eyes of a small boy. The contrast between the calm, uneventful lives of the boy and his family, and the utter despair and misery of the refugees, is what makes this film special. It also offers the viewer some relief from the grim scenes at sea. Some of the scenes featuring the boy are really funny, such as his visit to the doctor because of an imagined illness.
The editing of the film is great. There is a slow build-up, with scenes whose meaning is not immediately clear. But later on, things fall into place. The most shocking footage is shown near the end. Also, there is a very good balance between the rescue scenes at sea and almost poetic scenes of daily life on the island.
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