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Notes form a small island
rubenm3 October 2016
Fifteen thousand people have died on their way from North Africa to the Italian island Lampedusa. That's five times as much as the number of casualties in the 9/11 attacks. The scale of this human tragedy is almost impossible to fathom.

And yet, that's exactly what director Gianfranco Rosi has tried to do in this documentary. He must have spent many months with the Italian coast guard, which tracks down the vessels with refugees. And he must have shot an immense quantity of footage, because it's clear he has selected only the best material.

The film doesn't explain or elaborate. It just shows, as a good movie is supposed to do. There is some very shocking footage, but also plenty of small, almost ordinary scenes like a beautiful shot of a helicopter taking off, or a doctor doing a check-up of a newly arrived refugee pregnant with twins.

But there are not only scenes of refugees. There is also daily life on the island, which we see through the eyes of a small boy. The contrast between the calm, uneventful lives of the boy and his family, and the utter despair and misery of the refugees, is what makes this film special. It also offers the viewer some relief from the grim scenes at sea. Some of the scenes featuring the boy are really funny, such as his visit to the doctor because of an imagined illness.

The editing of the film is great. There is a slow build-up, with scenes whose meaning is not immediately clear. But later on, things fall into place. The most shocking footage is shown near the end. Also, there is a very good balance between the rescue scenes at sea and almost poetic scenes of daily life on the island.
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I must now have compassion fatigue
emuir-19 July 2017
I realize that the film was meant to show how the lives of the islanders were impacted by the refugee crisis, but it didn't. The film showed endless footage of a young boy playing, making catapults, pretending to shoot down aircraft? birds? shooting at cactus, getting his eyes tested, and a friend riding his scooter. There was footage of his family life, mama cooking, peeling vegetables, the family eating, mama making a bed. A DJ playing requests, and on, but no scenes of the interaction with the refugees/migrants. We saw the coast guard rescuing dying migrants from overcrowded boats, the immigration people processing them and the doctor examining and talking about them. There was an African migrant screaming like a gospel preacher about the hardships they had endured and those who have died en route, but for all we saw, the residents seemed to live a life apart and are totally unaffected if not unaware of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have ended up on their small island.

The film did show the comfortable orderly lives of the islanders and their comfortable homes, contrasting with the destitution of the migrants who have lost everything - their homes, jobs, family members and face an uncertain future after a hazardous and sometimes deadly journey, but other than the doctor, no one seemed particularly bothered.

Questions which were not answered, where are the migrants getting all the money for the journey, which seems to cost around $10,000 and more. Just the boat trip from Libya to Lampedusa costs between $1,500 and $850 depending on your place in the boat, and seeing as most of the migrants are from Central Africa, getting to Libya must cost ten times more. What are the smugglers doing with all their money which must run into hundreds of millions by now. Where is it being laundered. What is being done to catch the smugglers? Are the migrants really in peril and facing death, or are they being enticed by the people smugglers with false claims of a land of milk and honey. If the latter, why are they not writing (or phoning on the ubiquitous cell phones) to warn their friends and family not to come? Perhaps it is compassion fatigue, but as we saw the dead migrants being unloaded from the tiny overcrowded boat, I was reminded of the cry of 'Bring out your dead' in the days of the plague.
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boring, unfocused, just plain bad
mamlukman9 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this today at the Toronto Film Festival. The director spent a year and a half on this? Are you kidding?

If the following makes for fascinating filmmaking in your opinion, this is the movie for you:

-a woman making a bed

-a boy looking at a bird in a tree

-2 boys carving faces in cactuses

-5-6 brief shots of a radio DJ playing songs

-a woman getting a sonogram

-a boy getting an eye exam

-and much more of the same!!!!

It took real inspiration to take a topic with built-in drama and turn it into a mish-mash of pretentious "artistic" nothing. Virtually nothing on the refugees, and no interviews with them at all. The only moving part was the shot of the dead refugees in the hold of the boat. Other than that, it is empty of both content and emotion.

This is, sadly, one of the worst movies I have ever seen and a colossal waste of two hours.
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Heart-wrenching docudrama: dying to be free
davidgee9 July 2016
FIRE AT SEA won the 'Golden Bear' best picture award at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Part documentary, part docudrama, it was filmed on the Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies roughly midway between Libya and Sicily and has become the first port of call for more than 100,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Over 15,000 have drowned, dying to be set free from terror and tyranny and poverty.

We see the Italian navy rescuing migrants from their sinking overcrowded boats and dinghies; many of them are in a desperate condition after days at sea. We get glimpses of the 'internment camp'where they wait to be processed and sent on to their uncertain future in a Europe which is increasingly unwelcoming.

Alternating with the refugee crisis, the film's main focus is Samuele, a 12-year-old Lampedusan who lives with his fisherman father and grandmother. The family play themselves in the style of a Pasolini movie (minus the sex and the blasphemy). We watch Samuele slurping spaghetti, struggling with homework, playing with a slingshot. They seem to have a very limited awareness of the migrant situation, although that is perhaps only the director's way of pointing up the contrast between the ordinariness of their lives and the appalling tragedy taking place in the waters around their island.

This heart-wrenching film offers no solution to the crisis. How could it? There clearly isn't one.
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knock knock who's there…? someone missing…?
adrin-6507813 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Lampedusa as filmed by Gianfranco Rosi is a visual paean to oppositions: the empty /the full, the ordered/ the chaotic, the open/ the closed, internal / the external, within time/without time And more.

Oppositions organised in geographic proximity. Islanders and refugees both sharing space on this small Mediterranean island. But now you see them now you don't. On the island we see the islanders but we don't see the migrants, they are invisible, their new European identities as the 'unseen' already anticipated.

On Lampedusa the streets are empty, the escapees confined to their own enclaves.

The islanders lead out their traditional lives on Lampedusa, life ordered by a natural unfolding of time that divides into past present future. The refugees and migrants live outside the order of time, compressed into a chaotic hallucinogenic now.

The islanders are rooted on rock and lapped by the sea. The migrants travelling across water, crashing onto the rocks or scooped out of the Mediterranean are alive if they are lucky, dead if they are not. They are trapped in endless motions in which time has ceased to be a significant marker of life. For the migrants the imperative is 'escape' to not stop fleeing until they find something. When in due course, they leave Lampedusa they leave no imprint on the island other than on the statistical compilations of NGOs. More than 400,000 thousand passed through, ghosts rather than solid entities.

Without commentary and working though image simple, many of Rosi's shots comprise two great encompassers of Lampedusa: sea and sky. Images that Rossi exploits, but which conjure different associations for the islanders and migrants.

The sea before and sky overhead stretch out around and over, containing the sentience of all beings. For the islanders the surrounding waters are their environment, a living testament to their collective history, the source of their food and livelihood. For the arrivees, the migrants the sea is experienced otherwise: as barrier ordeal and death. The sky that hangs over Lampadusa hangs over all beings. For the islanders this sky with rolling clouds signifies the here and now, the intensity of the present, it mediates action, reflects back consciousness of life. For the arrivees it barely exists as a psychic immediacy. On Lampedusa the migrants are as if in a state of trance they are trapped in their own internal landscapes.

An island boy whittles wood to make his catapult; a Nigerian recounts as a liturgy in collective form the ordeal of his flight: "We crossed the dessert the dessert could not stop us, we crossed the mountains the mountains could not stop us, we ran to the sea, the sea could not stop us." The effect of his words echoes the power of the old testament, the cry of a people lost in the wilderness, a people possessed by the spirit.

Although the images are not juxtaposed in Rosi's edit, I somehow connected this liturgical listing of ordeals survived and overcome with the long duration shot of the grandmother making up her bed. The order the certainty represented in this act of meticulous physical geometry; the ecclesiastic lay out of her bedroom with its saints and sacred objects. A feeling of deadness in this bedroom, reflected and compounded in the images of dead migrants suffocated in the steerage hold of their boat, lying in filth and squalor, perhaps many of them without names. The dead are everywhere.

I understand that Rosi wanted to make a pure film. In which images manipulated and exploited would stand for any words that might or could be said. But the human voice is part of our world. Rosi's Fire at Sea felt like a piece of filmic surgery, a clinicians assemblage of images. As Rosi knocked on the door of Lampedusa it seemed as if he was not there. He had absented himself.

And perhaps this is OK. No voice. Rosi in avoiding the stories of refugees and migrants the staple of radio and TV, Rosi, abstracting his material reaches out into the reality of the the void of refugees and migrants. They are people stripped out of time, stripped out of history, a group of people living in a timevoid. A void which groups like Isis seek, in their own time to fill, by giving back to those lost in time the precious gift of time. This is a film about the medium of time. adrin neatrour
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WTF the worst documentary I've seen
Funasian200527 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Gosh. This is a piece of crap and it won the Golden Bear in Berlin Film Festival and was nominated in the Oscars. I watch it with no expectation and was still disappointed.

This piece of documentary basically follows 2 TOTALLY separate stories ( a story about a boy's life and of the poor refugees ). I have no idea what message the director is trying to show to the audience.
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Multi-layered Mediterranean Sea tale.
Reno-Rangan14 February 2017
This documentary film is not in detail like any normal documentary does, to highlight the rights and wrongs. Actually, it speaks less and reveals more through its pictures. So anybody can make their own narration watching this film. The filmmakers left that part empty for you the viewers to decide. But my advice for you if you want to try this, that don't expect it to be about the 'immigration' alone. This film was multi-layered. There are many angles of focus about different topics, but kind of all are connected which is the Mediterranean Sea.

So the common thing in the film is the Sea that divides the two continents, Europe and Africa. This film sets around that region about the people who depended on it for the living, growing up and looking for the fresh life start. But the majority of those who saw it recognise only the refugees who cross the sea. That's wrong to label this film is about the refugees. Around 20-25 per cent of the film concentrated on that issue. Only about their struggle on their journey to the other side, but it reveals nothing on its root cause. If you ask me, I would say only one religion making all this mess in the middle-east, otherwise you won't see the western army in that region.

Some of the clips, the real ones are really disturbing. I won't blame those people who took such risk to get the other side of the sea. Believe me, I'm not a nationalist, so I won't believe in borders and regions that divided over language and ethnicity base. But I do mind the religious. If that was eradicated from the earth's surface, particularly one that's causing all the trouble immediately, we can co-exist peacefully. That's the major issue here, but we're after temporary solution. The film does not say all this, but you will get the clear picture.

"The ships fired rockets and at sea. It was like there was fire at sea."

For me this was an average film. I have seen the much better documentaries than this on various issues of the world. The filmmakers don't want to take sides, so they only revealed the truth by just following and making videos of life in and around the Mediterranean Sea. Like I meantioned earlier, some of the angles do not make any sense or difficult to understand its purpose. I don't know the others, but I have got plenty of questions about the film to ask the filmmakers. If you are like me, welcome aboard.

It was the Italian entry for the 2017 Oscars and it did not make, but found a slot in the list of Best Documentary Feature. This is the first out of five from that category I have seen, so I don't know whether it wins the award or not, but as per the prediction made by film fanatics and critics, this is the frontrunner.

Whatever the result would be, I'm not recommending it particularly the common people. Because the film fails to narrate the story which is very essential from the average peoples' perspective to get the message clear and loud. All one can get with this is only the outline on the very important issue at the moment. Remember how the David Attenborough's narration made to reach all the corners of the earth. Confusing over the purpose of the documentary, possibly misleading. Its like watching a news channel on the mute mode. Otherwise, this should have been one of the best of its kind.

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A piece of Art - a slice of Nature, a breath of Life and a moment of Italy...
dolfoart2 August 2016
"Fuocoammare" was a real surprise to me. It's charm took my breath away...

I felt right at the start that this is going to be great. The colors, the photography, the sound, everything lead to show me the harmony and the inner glow of Lampedusa and it's inhabitants, and the pragmatic, dramatic contrast of the migrants.

So much Charm. Wow! This movie is relaxes, shows drama in other ways...

Usually I don't even like slow films: with few cuts, few actions: But that one...blow me away.

It's like living there, essentially with them, feeling their emotions, the salty sea air on our skin... And I think this is mainly because of the "local actors". Rossi and the Cast made a ,,capolavoro" capturing and playing their life that way.

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Quiet Atmospherics
larrys325 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If you're looking for lots of action, snappy dialogue, or even a coherent storyline then this film is probably not for you. It relies on quiet atmospherics to tell its story about the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. It juxtaposes the lives of some of its citizens with the constant arrival of desperate migrants, who have been picked up at sea by the Italian Navy and brought to Lampedusa for initial processing.

These migrants begin their harrowing and treacherous sea journey from the coast of Africa heading towards Italy, and, per the movie, some 15,000 of them have died trying in their attempts for a better life. Some of the scenes in the film are truly heartbreaking, and when a local doctor reveals some of the horrific things he must face in his profession it is unforgettable.

Director Gianfranco Rosi has chosen to tell his story in rather a quiet and existential way, which I found quite fascinating but it certainly won't appeal to everyone. If this topic interests you, I saw a movie last year called "Mediterranea" which depicts the journey of the migrants in more detail and follows up with their arrival in mainland Italy.
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Fascinating style but blatant omission.
lindfilm-127 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
'Fire at Sea' is a languorous, almost surrealistic cinematic experience set on and around the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, haven and staging post for approximately 400,000 refugees so far, risking drowning as they flee from the Libyan coast on this final leg of their epic journeys from distant war-torn lands.

It is the film's unexpected style that gradually won me over but I cannot give the film a higher rating than my 7 because of the blatant omission of their impact on the local Italian townsfolk who in this film seem oblivious to the drama (except the doctor and coastguard personnel).

As a matter of fact the refugees are not confined to holding camps as depicted in this film but are in reality allowed to swarm through the streets testing the patience of the locals, and yet this is excluded from the film. The small island of Lampedusa is actually their holding centre.

Otherwise - fascinatingly dreamlike, with comedy relief provided unintentionally by the young boy 'star' of the film.
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A Documentary with an Artistic Value & a Reminder that we are Humans
A_Rocker18 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It wasn't watching, as much it was staring. It was like director Gianfranco Rosi made us notice and examine this dilemma more thoroughly than any news station or social media platform. Those quiet yet fierce moments were everything,, everything we have to see.

In addition, Rosi used quite the effective symbolism, putting a little kid in use like that was genius. Samuele has a lazy eye; he's anxious worrying about something that doesn't exist; using tree branches to make a slingshot;turning cactus trees into targets to shoot and explode; he has trouble sailing. All these and more, are major issues that some people/countries around the world need to fix. When it comes to refugees we look the other way; we believe they are a problem; we'd rather make weapons than anything; we see them as enemies; we don't know how to help them.

This documentary has artistic value, but more importantly, it has a message that we all need to listen, see, and examine very carefully and wholeheartedly.
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Not your typical documentary. So watch it.
Movies5055 July 2018
Many action movies, rom-coms, sci-fi movies, and documentaries are formulaic. Not so with "Fire at Sea." There are no voice overs by elderly Hollywood actors, or dry commentary by hardcore journalists.

Writer/director Giafranco Rosi tells his story by contrasting and comparing young Samuele's - a local inhabitant on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa - "speed bumps" with the plight of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern refugees as overcrowded boats of them stop near Lampedusa until the Italian Coast Guard can rescue, help, triage, or mark them for burial.

Rosi uses both beautiful, poignant, and graphic scenes to engage the viewer throughout. No loud-mouthed protestors with bull horns or offensive signs in this movie. No politics. Just two stories intertwined to help educate, enlighten, and perhaps to teach tolerance and compassion.

Most impressive - the Italian Coast Guard. Their job is relentless, dangerous, and I am sure... Satisfying. They should be sainted!
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A relevant documentary
proud_luddite12 May 2018
The subject of this documentary is Lampedusa, a small Italian island south of Sicily. The camera follows the ordinary activities of its local inhabitants while also exposing the migrants who end up there on crowded makeshift boats: Africans fleeing despair and persecution from their various homelands.

The style of this film is cinema-vérité, simply observing the various subjects in a very quiet way. Most of the attention is given to the island residents, particularly a twelve-year old boy. In the beginning, there are occasional feelings of boredom but once getting used to the meditative style, the movie is quite rewarding.

At first, one might wonder why there is less attention on the migrants but this eventually becomes understandable. If they had been the main subject, it is possible the viewer would feel overwhelmed and numb by the end. The smaller number of scenes end up having a greater impact. While not always horrific, the viewer sees up close the people behind the headlines - the migrants as well as the rescuers. Emotions run high before the viewer is bought back to daily routine life on the island which seems very distant from the lives of the migrants.

Director Gianfranco Rosi is very wise in avoiding any methods to heighten the real-life drama. The approach as a simple witness works perfectly especially in some highlighted scenes: the despair of a local doctor who is distressed by the plight of so many; a Nigerian refugee recounting the plight of his former country and finding more trouble in Libya as he and others traveled north; and of course, the indescribable feelings of seeing a large boat with hundreds of people cramped in it.
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Must watch.
IronGirella14 February 2019
A film with such a sharp artistic take on the european migrant crisys and the everyday life of a Lampedusa's family that is a must watch for everyone.
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An important work about immigration
chiaragiacobelli16 December 2018
Gianfranco Rosi made a very good documentary about the problem of immigration and the situation in the isle of Lampedusa, comparing the daily life of the italian citizens with the troubles of the women, men and children who need to cross the Adriatic sea to survive. He didn't use actors but real people in their real lives, for this reason the result is realistic, powerful and emotional. It shows many situations that we don't want to see and to know, using a good point of view and without being demagogic. The movie deserves all the awards that it won.
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Perfect Balance between Beauty and Pain
mikenow-511-4005409 March 2017
Fuocoammare AKA Fire at Sea is a 2016 Italian documentary feature that made it through the whole 66 Berlin International Film Festival to get The Golden Bear which is the most prestigious award of the festival, and it totally deserved it.

Documentary films can be known for have a harsh look given his nature of realism and objectivity, the visual element becomes secondary when it's Reality the substance of the discourse in the movie, and also having in mind the idea of the political possibilities that this tool offers is normal to think that aesthetics are not really relevant.

In this case, Fire at Sea achieves the perfect balance between both elements: Political statement or position from a very Objective point of view; and very beautiful visual development without affect to much the reality of happenings. We are talking about a spellbinding but bittersweet piece of work that it can really shock you both painfully and delightedly, it's captivating but thrilling at the same time a really must see feature.
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a problem with no solution
cdcrb30 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
when I was leaving the theatre, the young man asked if the movie was the usual fare that the movie house shows, and I said that although it was a documentary, it seemed like a movie. we are on lumpedusa, an island off the coast of Tunisia. Italian. a young boy, samuele, spends his idealic days making sling shots from tree branches, eating ciopino and pasta home made by his grandmother. his father is a fisherman by trade and sanuele is trying to get over his seasickness, by spending time on the heaving pontoons in the harbor. as his grandmother listens to the local radio station, she hears about a boat full of refugees from Africa, which is sinking off the coast of lumpdusa. all perish. in the mean time samuele goes to the optometrist, who prescribes a patch for samuel's lazy eye. in the mean while another ship, loaded with 800 African refugees, is again in trouble and the lumpedusa caostgaurd tries to come to the rescue. many of the travelers have died due to deplorable conditions on the boat and have to be removed. unceremoniously. we don't know what happens to the survivors or what the future holds for any one else making this journey. it's just a movie about a young man living in paradise.
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