Making such a film requires ambition and sensitivity, and thankfully Rosi has both. He doesn’t rely on overbearing narration to make his points, instead trusting in the power of his footage.
At the heart of his film is Samuele. The twelve year-old son of a local fisherman, we first meet him as he expounds on the importance of passion in fashioning a slingshot, speaking with the authority of a seasoned artisan. It’s a fitting introduction to a precocious young man who later asks his doctor if his breathing troubles are, in fact, anxiety-related.
On Samuele’s doorstep is one of the worst humanitarian crises of the modern age, although it’s hard to tell how aware he is of the situation. Perhaps more pressing for him is the prospect of a life at sea, a terrifying thought for a kid with seasickness. Still, you sense that at least some of his nerves must be tied up with what’s going on all around him.
For the first half of the film we mostly glimpse the crisis, in distressed calls from the migrant ships or in radio reports listened to as dinner is prepared. Later on, we witness a rescue operation and scenes which challenge description. Of course, ethical questions arise whenever a documentarian trains his or her lens on such tragedy, but Rosi does his best to be respectful. The footage doesn’t feel exploitative, simply urgent and harrowing.
It’s a film about a humanitarian emergency, but one which recognises that these crises take place in tandem with life’s necessary trivialities. As boats of displaced people risk their lives to reach new shores, a boy settles down to his homework.
This is not an easy film to watch, but we think it’s genuinely essential viewing.
|What||Fire at Sea film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
10 Jun 16 – 12 Aug 16, Event times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to visit the film's IMDB page|