Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
There are two outstanding, very different documentaries about the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa on this year’s programme. In this one, Austrian director Jakob Brossmann explores the impact of European and Italian political decisions on the populace. Many of the questions that Gianfranco Rosi’s more purely observational Fire at Sea leaves hanging in the air are answered here.
Brossmann embeds a vivid understanding of the island’s predicament in an engaging picture of numerous islanders at work and play, but the town’s dynamic mayor, Giusi Nicolini, stands at the heart of his stirring portrait. In the globalised, free market era, infrastructural decline constitutes a crisis that any small, isolated community can recognise, and when the only ferry service to the mainland breaks down, local unrest finds its focal point. European policies that drive asylum seekers to board barely sea worthy boats add a unique burden of care for this tiny population. Expected to solve everyone’s problems, not least those of refugees stalled on the island, the formidable Nicolini remains staunch in her defence of their compassionate treatment and outspoken in her shaming of higher authority.
“The situation on Lampedusa isn’t a breeding ground for racism and xenophobia – though you might conclude this as a consumer of European media – but precisely the opposite. A form of solidarity has developed here; it isn’t always apparent, but it’s basically there. Because the inhabitants of the island regard themselves as victims of the same cynical politics as the refugees.” — Jakob Brossmann