Venice Film Festival winner Gianfranco Rosi brings Italy’s only entry, Fuocomare (Fire at Sea) to this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
This competition entry was shot on and around the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, near the North African coast in the headlines since the early 2000s as a primary destination for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from African and the Middle East.
Rosi won the Golden Lion in 2013 with his documentary
Sacro Gra, an unusual look at the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the giant ring of a highway that circles Rome and the people who live out there. He spent about two years living with them, finding out who they are, and filming them.
I interviewed Rosi in 2014 and he told me, “I’d never make a non-documentary film. I’d be completely bored.”
Rosi, with his great talent of taking loving care in the telling of other people’s lives, says that he saw in his Sacro GRA subjects “the generosity of sharing their lives with the world”.
“Each of them was a potential for a whole film”, Rosi told me. “I found seven people who don’t complain about life. They are all very open, and all use a very poetic language.”
It’s been said, and Rosi confirms it, that the Venice Jury, headed by Bernardo Bertolucci, voted for Sacro GRA unanimously, and that no other nominated film was seriously considered. Rosi told me that Bertolucci had said that he loved it because “it was a film with no judgement”, a trait Rosi feels has become too rare in documentaries, particularly American ones, like Michael Moore’s.
“I don’t like this kind of filmmaking”, he said. “Everybody wants to be a small Michael Moore. I like to capture positive elements of the world.
If you want to know more about the immigration crisis in Italy and specifically on Lampedusa, check out Terraferma from director Emanuele Crialese, a film that was awarded the special jury prize at Venice in 2011. Terraferma, also set on Lampedusa, tells the tale of a fishing boat captain who runs into a raft filled with African immigrants and loses his boat after he saves them, an act that had been proclaimed illegal by the Italian government.
You can watch Terraferma on Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon Video.