Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Fire at Sea

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Fire at Sea

Article excerpt

FIRE AT SEA

Directed by Gianfranco Rosi (Rai Cinema, 2016)

The opening titles of Italian documentary Fire at Sea reel off a stark, if familiar, set of statistics. Only eight square miles, the tiny island of Lampedusa has served as the landing pad for more than 400,000 refugees desperate to reach Europe over the past 20 years. Another 15,000 people have died journeying to the island.

Unflinching but never exploitative, director Gianfranco Rosi presents the nearly unimaginable trials the refugees have endured. With his friends singing along behind him, one Nigerian man chants out his story, which includes fleeing a bombing, crossing the Sahara on foot, and being beaten, robbed, and imprisoned before finally climbing into a dangerously overcrowded boat and setting out to sea.

The sea ties the refugees' lives to those of ordinary Lampedusans, whose daily routines are juxtaposed with scenes of refugees coming ashore. Calling into a local radio station, a woman dedicates a song to her son, whose fishing boat has been docked while he and the other fishermen wait for a series of storms to pass. …

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