“Fire at Sea”: documentary of mass migration to Italy from Africa at a Mediterranean island, Lampedusa

Fire at Sea” (“Fuoco Ammare”, directed by Gianfranco Rosi) is a compelling is somewhat loosely structured two-hour docudrama portraying life on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, actually closer to Africa than to Italy, of which it is legally a part – as the military, medical people, and ordinary townspeople deal with the nightly arrival of migrants from Africa.

Many of the migrants arrive seriously ill from exposure to diesel fuel on the boats, which mixed with sea water and can produce disfiguring chemical burns.  Most of the burn victims are women (and children), because they tend to sit in the lower portions of the boats as the men surround them to “protect” them.

The migrants describe having come from as far away as Nigeria (through Niger), fleeing Boko Haram, and then being chased out of Libya.

The Italian Navy patrols the waters and does take their distress calls.  The townspeople are used to being expected to help them.

A major subplot of the film concerns the 12 year old boy Samuele, who enjoys playing with his slingshot.  His dad wants him to learn to be more helpful to other people, including the migrants.  For example, Samuele gets seasick when he walks on the pontoon, but his father lectures him about toughening his stomach.  At one point he has an exam with a doctor who simply finds hypochondria and anxiety, as well as a “lazy eye” which is slowly improving. In a climactic scene near the end, Samuele goes out into the woods alone at night to encounter a bluebird in the bush.

The DVD contains a brief commentary by the director in English, a QA at the New York Film Festival, and a 30-minute interview with Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who describes some changes to the film before the Berlin Silver Bear festival (to make the people seem more sympathetic), and then describes the medical horrors of the boatlift.  One pregnant woman’s water broke, and she could not deliver the baby for two days, but the baby girl turned out OK. Bartolo says that Europe needs migrants, and he believes these migrants pose no security threat and take the jobs White Europeans don’t want or can’t do.  He comments on white Europe’s low birthrate and aging population, and economic need for immigrants.

Lampedusa picture, wiki.

Name:  “Fire at Sea”
Director, writer:  Gianfranco Rosi
Released:  2016/2
Format:  1.85:1, in Italian with subtitles
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 2017/4/12
Length:  116; extras 46
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Kino Lorber
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

“Sully”: “duty” meant protecting the lives of New Yorkers on the ground as well as in his plane

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Name: Sully
Director, writer:  Clint Eastwood (based on book by Chesley Sullenberger)
Released:  2016/11
Format:  2.35:1 or Imax
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2016/9/9, afternoon, fair audience
Length 96
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow, Ratpac
Link: official 

Sully”, directed by Clint Eastwood (who composed some original popular music for the film) and written by Todd Lomarnick presents Tom Hanks in the eyes of a “man of action” hero, pilot Chesley Sullenberger (using his book “Highest Duty”), who saved the lives of 155 passengers on a USAir flight that endured bird strikes on both engines on Jan 15. 2009 as it was leaving La Guardia, by landing in the icy Hudson River.  This was five days before Obama’s inauguration.

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The top-level plot concerns Sully’s vindication himself against the bureaucracy of the FAA and NTSB, for not trying to return to La Guardia or to Teeterboro, when post flight recovery suggested that one of the engines was still working.

On a narrative level, the film justifies his judgment, by showing dreams of the possible plane crashes into residential buildings in Manhattan or Queens that could have occurred, and final simulation, which Sully tweaks at his “trial” also makes the point.

Yes, it’s interesting that Warner Brothers releases this film on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  But we get from the metaphor what Sully means by duty.

Aaron Eckhart looks scrubbed as the co-pilot Skiles.  Remember what happens to him in “Thank You for Smoking” (2005)?

Angelika also presented a 4-minute short film “Floaters” by Foster Huntington, about surfing.

(Published: Friday, September 9, 2016 at 9 PM EDT)