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Film Reviews Fire at Sea paints a heartbreaking portrait of the European migrant crisis

Fire at Sea paints a harrowing, heartbreaking and humane portrait of the European migrant crisis through the eyes of the residents of Lampedusa.

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4 out of 4 stars

Title
Fire at Sea
Written by
Gianfranco Rosi and Carla Cattani
Directed by
Gianfranco Rosi
Starring
Samuele Pucillo, Maria Costa
Genre
Documentary
Classification
PG
Country
Italy/France
Language
English
Year
2016

A harrowing, heartbreaking and humane portrait of the European migrant crisis through the eyes of the residents of Lampedusa, a small island south of Sicily; approximately 400,000 migrants have landed there in the past 20 years and roughly 15,000 have died attempting the crossing. In one of the film's first scenes, we hear a disembodied voice pleading, "We beg you, please," over and over again. Later, a woman hears a radio report that 34 people have died. "Poor souls," she says. We are left to make the connection. The link between the migrants and the residents, and the movie's moral centre, is the island's doctor, who in one of the film's most powerful moments reflects on all the autopsies he's performed. "It's the duty of every human being to help these people," he says. That's about as close as director Gianfranco Rosi gets to a political message. At one point, a man, one of the fortunate to be rescued, recounts his journey from Nigeria, through the Sahara, to Libya. "And we came to the sea," he says. "The sea is not a place to pass by. The sea is not a road."

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