Documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is the toast of Europe. Can he conquer the Oscars?
I interviewed Rosi when he brought his 2013 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winning documentary Sacro GRA to New York City and remember his intensity catching me off guard.
He confirmed what I’d heard said around Venice that year: The Venice Film Festival 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.”
The doc that is causing the buzz now is much bigger. It won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for best documentary, a Nastro D’argento, an Italian Golden Globe, a European Film Award, and it’s been shortlisted for the Academy Award for best documentary.
Rosi’s heartbreaking documentary takes on the European migrant crisis, and is one that will strike a nerve for Americans and our immigration debate. 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.
(The Frecciarosa? That’s that really fast Italian train that goes 200 miles and hour. And Gianfranco’s on it.)