Capturing life on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a frontline in the European migrant crisis.


Gianfranco Rosi


Gianfranco Rosi, Carla Cattani (idea)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Samuele Pucillo Samuele Pucillo ... Self
Mattias Cucina Mattias Cucina ... Self
Samuele Caruana Samuele Caruana ... Self
Pietro Bartolo Pietro Bartolo ... Self
Giuseppe Fragapane Giuseppe Fragapane ... Self
Maria Signorello Maria Signorello ... Self
Francesco Paterna Francesco Paterna ... Self
Francesco Mannino Francesco Mannino ... Self
Maria Costa Maria Costa ... Self


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.

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Did You Know?


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 »


Pietro Bartolo: It is the duty of every human being to help these people.
See more »

User Reviews

Notes form a small island
3 October 2016 | by rubenmSee all my reviews

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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Italy | France


Italian | English

Release Date:

18 February 2016 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Fire at Sea See more »

Filming Locations:

Lampedusa, Italy See more »


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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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