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.
Director Gianfranco Rosi's filmmaking style is so unobtrusive that a year after he began interviewing him, Lampedusa's Dr. Bartolo asked when he was going to start shooting. Rosi told him that he had already submitted the film to the Berlin Film Festival. See more »
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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