I want to make sure that everybody knows about the film that Italy has chosen to represent it at this year’s Academy Awards, Fuocoammare, Fire at Sea. In US theaters since 10/21.
Some, like director and Oscar Winner Paolo Sorrentino, have suggested that this is a weird choice, since it’s a documentary, and might have served the purpose better in the documentary category, but remember, Rosi is the first documentary filmmaker to win the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award and the first Italian to win it since 1998 with Sacro GRA a documentary that tells the story of the giant ring of highway around Rome and the (colorful) people who live by it.
Fuocoammare, Fire at Sea, delivers a more urgently topical message, one that should hit home in the USA with our immigration debate raging.
While we tend to talk about who does, and does not deserve to live here in the US, Italians on the island of Lampadusa are concerned with the more immediate job of saving the lives of desperate boat people in perilous situations at sea. Politics will come later.
These men and women will need to be absorbed into an already troubled Europe, or they’ll need to be sent back to their dangerous homelands, but as one resident put it, “If we don’t help them, who will?”
Rosi leaves the politics to the politicians and shows us the horrifying reality of overcrowded boats, a frantic SOS from one that is sinking, and a medical doctor describing the unimaginable number of dead and dying he deals with on a regular basis.
At the same time, he gives us a window into the world of residents of the island, affected in ways that they don’t even seem to fully comprehend, by the drama in their back yards.
Fuocoamare seems almost a narrative film, with the locals playing the parts of sympathetic onlookers and aid givers, eloquently talking about their lives on the island in ways that no script could ever have lived up to. Young Samuele, for example, a happy and adventurous Italian boy doesn’t understand the anxiety he’s feeling, but his doctor does. When housing meant for 800 migrants must often accomodate 3,000 (the entire population of the island is only 6,000), everyone is affected.
Rosi is such an admirable documentary maker, my favorite kind, the kind that shows us without manipulating our emotions, not seeming to care about your position on the issue, just wanting you to look at what’s happening. It reminds me of being a child watching the Vietnam war play out on TV. We saw the body bags and it wasn’t just a story in the newspaper anymore; everyone was forced to take a stand one way or the other. I think Rosi wants the same from us now.
Rosi told me that the jury at Venice, headed by Bernardo Bertolucci, voted for Sacro GRA unanimously, and that no other nominated film was seriously considered. He said 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.
He told me that he wasn’t a big fan of filmmakers like Michael Moore, and said, “Everybody wants to be a little Michael Moore”. He told me that he didn’t want to be that kind of filmmaker, that he wanted to capture the positive elements in the world.
Fuocoammare has been nominated for a European Film Award as well as getting its chance at an Oscar, so if you want to see for yourself, there’ll be a limited screening engagement in the United States beginning October 21, and we’ll let you know the cities as soon as we learn them.
I highly recommend you see Fire at Sea and enter into the discussion for this film that has already touched so many.
Details of cities and dates coming soon!