Fuocoammare is a terrific documentary set on the island of Lampedusa, the first European point on the African migrants’ path, blending a sobre and observational form with stunning aesthetic.
A one man’s show (Gianfranco Rosi), the film opposes everyday life on the island to the shear horror of the Mediterranean crossing of boats filled with migrants. With no apparent narrative thread we’re watching the daily life of a preadolescent boy, his grandma, one radio station DJ, one diver hand picking sea-food, or a doctor. In between we watch them, the people from the other side of the sea, war refugees, climate immigrants, being rescued from the waters. In one numbing scene we go under the deck of an emptied boat, to witness a surreal landscaped of dozens of contorted dead bodies left behind. We don’t know what happened to them, nor what will happen with them from this point, as Fuocoammare is not an investigative effort.
Rather, by opposing the daily life of the “European boy” from the island - which eventually comes to bear the burden of a metaphor standing for us peoples North of the sea - we are offered with a Herzogian (yes, again) way of obtaining meaning from the simple power of contrasting images. Ecstatic truth from the deep.
How can I describe the moment where immigrants put to song their plight? Mind-blowing, disheartening, stunning, how the fuck can we restore dignity to these words in this era where mind-blowing, disheartening, stunning things actually happen daily?
On the other hand, what happens to these people, after they land on shore?