Documentary film ‘Fire at Sea’ explores life in the centre of the migrant crisis

Director Gianfranco Rosi’s latest documentary film ‘Fire at Sea’ is set in the heart of the migrant crisis, shot on the Sicilian island Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East arrive each year in an attempt to flee war and build a new life. Numerous rubber boats arrive, but vast amounts don’t make it: thousands of people drown on the coast of Lampedusa, and more than 17,000 people have reportedly died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the past 15 years.

Rosi doesn’t use a narrative voiceover, instead letting the locals and the migrants fill the narrative. The film switches between the desperate plight of the migrants, and the everyday lives of the local people, focusing on one family in particular. In this family is a young boy, Sameule, who is only connected to the migrants through a doctor he visits who also treats the migrants as they arrive. Sameule and his family’s live quiet lives, yet are resting on the edge of a major world crisis.

The contrast between the lives of those who desperately arrive at the island, passing by, with those who permanently live there, who surprisingly have barely any contact with the migrants other than the doctor, could perhaps be seen as a metaphor for how little we all do in Europe to help the crisis, despite it moving closer to home.

‘Fire at Sea’ won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival, where jury president Meryl Streep called the film “urgent, imaginative, and necessary filmmaking.” During his acceptance speech, Rosi explained his aim with the film was to increase awareness of the migrant situation, and this is clearly an important, political film.

View the trailer below: