BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Along the coast of Sicily stands a little seaport town of Lampedusa. This town seems like nothing special, but for 20 years, it has served as the landing ground for 400,000 refugees fleeing from Africa. In hopes of reaching Europe. And yet, the town seems unaffected by it. Fire at Sea looks at the daily routines of this little town and the town’s process of sorting out refugees.
The film bears familiarities with 4.1 Miles. Both have refugees being forced into overcrowded boats, many of which sink before they get there. Both show the heroics of Coast Guards rescuing these desperate people. What separates Fire at Sea from the short film is that we get to see what happens to the refugees after they are rescued. We see Somali Refugees put through a process where they are checked for illnesses and weapons. The officers wear contamination uniforms for the sake of safety. We also see how the refugees kill time. Most of them pray to Allah, while others sing gospel. All of them play soccer.
But most of the film focuses on the everyday lives of the locals. The film switches between a radio dj, a middle-aged woman, a scuba diver and a boy named Samuele. The boy gets the most attention, creating slingshots with his friend Mattias and sneaking around ruins. At times, editor Jacopo Quadri performs some clever transitions. One scene, we’ll see Samuele and Mattias playing in a desert, then we see walking in the distance. Cut to the diver in the ocean.
Gianfranco Rosi shoots moments with a sense of distance. I assume this is used to focus more on the beauty of the surroundings than the characters. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave the audience with much to connect with. And honestly, it’s very boring. This film seems to be trying to stretch a forty-minute film into a two-hour movie.