Fire at Sea was the second film I had attended on Sunday at HIFF this year. It was the only film I had seen that was not originally set in English, but in Italian.. with English subtitles. It was a documentary type film that was directed by Gianfranco Rosi.
Fire at Sea has some great reviews out on the ole interwebs, having won the Golden Bear award at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival and was the Italian nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards. Even Rotten Tomatoes found its way over to the film and gave it a ripe 92% rating.
The film was shot on the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa. The film captures some of the migrant crisis in Europe with footage showing many survivors of long journeys of escape from Africa, desperate and relieved to be onshore.
The film mainly focuses on a 12 year old local boy from a fishing family – his father and grandmother, and a doctor who treats the migrant when they come onto the land from the sea.
Rosi stated that his intention was to heighten awareness of the migrant situation, saying, “It’s not acceptable that people die crossing the sea to escape from tragedies.” (“Berlin film festival: Fire at Sea wins Golden Bear”. BBC News.)
I hate to be the one who doesn’t really get it, but unfortunately Fire at Sea was more of a miss for me. My arguments may not be logically strong, but I guess I expected more, I expected different, and it did not grab my attention or interest my senses as much as I had hoped. I didn’t learn anything new that provoked my interest, and I was often confused as to how relevant the boy was to the refugee storyline. I felt as though the footage of him although wonderful, raw, and very special and real, did not tie into a lot of what Rosi’s apparent goals were as stated. Maybe I missed something, but the film did not draw me in. Perhaps I was in the wrong place, because despite my personal preferences/likings/disappointments that were taken toward the film I do believe it ticked a lot of boxes that a successful film might have. The footage felt really authentic and it was, it touched on some important issues and really delved into real life for those involved – gave us nice insight to lives on an island most of us have never even heard of.
An experience, all in all.