• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Italian refugee doc wows Berlin film festival
A still taken from the Fire at Sea. Photo: Berlin Film Festival

Italian refugee doc wows Berlin film festival

AFP · 13 Feb 2016, 17:14

Published: 13 Feb 2016 17:14 GMT+01:00

"Fire at Sea" by award-winning director Gianfranco Rosi, set on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, emerged as an early favourite among 18 contenders for the festival's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded by jury president Meryl Streep on February 20.
   
The film provides an unflinching look at the thousands of desperate people who arrive on the island each year trying to enter the European Union, and the thousands more who have died trying.
   
But Rosi, who spent several months on Lampedusa making the documentary, also offers a tender portrait of the rhythms of daily life in Lampedusa's ancient fishing villages and efforts of local people to help those in need.
   
"It bears witness to a tragedy that is happening right before our eyes," Rosi told reporters following a enthusiastically received press preview.
   
"I think we are all responsible for that tragedy and perhaps after the Holocaust, it is the greatest tragedy we have ever seen in Europe."
   
The picture is told through the eyes of a 12-year-old local boy, Samuele Pucillo, and a doctor, Pietro Bartolo, who has been tending to the often dehydrated, malnourished and traumatised new arrivals for a quarter-century.
   
Rosi, who clinched the Venice film festival's 2013 Golden Lion for his film "Sacro GRA", also accompanied coastguard rescue missions answering the terrified SOS calls of people on overcrowded boats, most of them arriving from Libya.
   
They are taken to a reception centre for medical examinations and processing while awaiting transfer to other sites in Italy.
   
Rosi captures the migrants' overwhelming relief to be on dry land, the shock that gives way to mourning for their dead, and the crushing boredom they break up with rough-and-tumble football games.
 
In one powerful scene, a Nigerian man recounts the perilous journey to Italy in a call-and-response chant with other African migrants, describing what was for many a deadly trek through the scorching Sahara, and the suffering endured at the hands of Islamic State jihadists and prison guards in Libya.
   
Bartolo, the doctor, said that he hoped the film would open more Europeans' eyes to the plight visible in Lampedusa every day, as the political debate grows more entrenched.
   
"I've seen so many terrible things, so many dead children, so many dead women, so many raped women. These things leave you with a great big empty hole in your stomach," he said.
   
"These are nightmares that haunt me very often."
   
Tim Robey of London's Daily Telegraph called the film "pertinent, humane" and "shattering" on Twitter, while Kate Muir of the Times pronounced it "brilliant".
   
Festival director Dieter Kosslick said ahead of the festival that a single theme ran through much of the selection this year: "the right to happiness -- the right to a home, to love, to self-determination, to life and to survival".
   
Hollywood star George Clooney and his wife Amal, a Lebanese-born human rights lawyer, used the occasion of the festival to offer their backing and assistance to Chancellor Angela Merkel in a meeting at her office Friday, after Germany let in 1.1 million asylum seekers last year.
Story continues below…
   
The 11-day cinema showcase is also featuring around a dozen films shining a light on the crisis in various ways.
   
German documentary "Havarie" traces the fate of a small rickety refugee boat in the Mediterranean, spotted by a tourist who made a mobile phone video from a cruise ship.
   
Danish film "Those Who Jump" hands the camera to a Malian migrant trapped in the high-security border facility between the EU and Africa as he and hundreds of other would-be asylum seekers plot their next move.
   
And Syrian-Iraqi production "Life of the Border" allowed eight children in a refugee camp in the Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane to film their own stories.
   
The festival runs until February 21.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Generations of glamour unite to toast Bottega Veneta
US star Lauren Hutton takes to the runway with the Bottega bag from American Gigolo. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Hollywood icon Lauren Hutton joined Gigi Hadid on the catwalk as the world of glamour united across the generations to celebrate 50 years of venerated Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta.

Interview
'My problem is too many ideas': Italy's couture king
Francois Guillot / AFP

Giambattista Valli says his fledgling ready-to-wear line is thriving -- thanks to spillover synergy from a haute couture operation that has made him a darling of the celebrity A-list set.

Italy orders man to buy feminist books for prostitute
An image of a customer meeting a prostitute. Photo: Italian investigators

A court in Rome has handed down an unusual penalty to the client of an underage prostitute, ordering him to buy her 30 books on the theme of women's dignity, Italian media reported Friday.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

For one day only: €1 nighttime entry to Italy's cultural sites
Fancy getting up close and personal with David after dark? Photo

Saturday is European Heritage Day, and Italy is celebrating with €1 entry to many of its most famous sites.

The real reasons young Italians aren't having kids
Why have Italians seemingly stopped making babies? File photo: Pexels

Italy's government is campaigning to get Italians to have babies - but what are the reasons behind the slowing birthrate?

Renzi vows to restore quake towns to former glory
Amatrice, the town worst hit by the August 24th quake. Photo: AFP

"The areas will be more beautiful than before," Italy's Prime Minister promised, one month on from the earthquake.

Italy spearheads citizen drive for EU soil policy
Italian farmland. Photo: michael kooiman/Flickr

An area of fertile soil the size of Berlin is lost across the EU each year.

Italian PM dismisses idea of Rome 2024 Olympics
Happier times: Renzi announcing Rome's candidacy for the 2024 Games. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

It looks like it's all over.

Yet another earthquake strikes in central Italy
Damaged houses in Accumoli, where another earthquake has struck. Photo: AFP

Repeated aftershocks since the initial quake have made recovery difficult in the disaster-hit region.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Culture
Eight things you should know about Rome's Spanish Steps
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake
National
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
2,529
jobs available