“An exciting, original movie. The jury was overwhelmed by compassion. The film brings together art and politics, and many more nuances. It’s exactly what art means in the way it is intended by the Berlinale. It’s a story of the truth, that depicts events as they are happening today. It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking”: said Jury President Meryl Streep, motivating the decision to award the Golden Bear, the most important prize of the Berlin Movie Festival, to “Fire at Sea” by Gianfranco Rosi. Rosi, already a winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival in 2013 with “Sacro Gra”, repeats a success by no means predictable, because the two films of the Italian director are two documentaries, a genre that until a few years ago was not considered in Festival’s showcases. Today, however, perhaps thanks to these two works by Rosi,
there is renewed awareness of the powerful poetic language of documentary genres,
capable of reporting currents events with uncontaminated language, unfiltered by fictional narrative.
Four years after the victory of the Taviani brothers’ “Caesar must die” (in fact, also a documentary), a new Italian film triumphs at Berlin with urgently topical footage. “Fire at sea” offers a portrait of life on the island of Lampedusa, sadly renowned for the tragic events involving inflows of migrants.
An urgently topical issue, debated in Europe and in America alike in the quest for possible solutions, often sparking off heated debates confronting opposing views. Rosi spent an entire year filming inflows of migrants towards the Italian coastline. He stayed a whole year in Lampedusa, reporting the desperation of families seeking a better future and the difficulties of the local population. One of the “protagonists” of the film is the physician who takes care of the migrants on the island, Pietro Bartolo. He voices what could be described as the most powerful message of the film: “We are a people of fishermen, and fishermen open their arms to everything that comes from the sea. May this be a lesson that we should learn to accept anything that comes from the sea.”
Il film, the power of its images, that need no words, nor a narrative plot, sends a message of solidarity and openness. In fact, in his acceptance speech, Rosi said: “At this moment I have to think about all the people who did not survive the journey to Lampedusa. I want to dedicate this award to the people of Lampedusa who were always extremely open to accept people arriving there.” He added: “For the first time Europe is seriously discussing some rules to be fixed, and I’m not happy with what is being decided. Barriers have never worked, especially mental ones. I hope this film will help tear down those barriers.”