Lucy Popescu

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Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Film Review – Lost in Lebanon

Posted by lucypopescu on May 28, 2017

 

This heart breaking film  by Sophia and Georgia Scott follows four Syrian refugees as they struggle to rebuild their lives in Lebanon. Syria’s neighbour has had to cope with a massive influx of refugees – Lebanon’s population is 4.4 million and 1.5 million Syrians have flooded into the country since the beginning of the conflict. Lost in Lebanon was shot in Beirut and on the Syrian border between 2014 and 2016. During this time, Lebanon was forced to restrict its open door policy for Syrian refugees and imposed various visa restrictions aimed at discouraging Syrians from entering or staying. As the film makes clear, the result has been devastating for many refugees who have nowhere else to go and fear for their lives if they are forcibly returned to Syria.

Sheikh Abdo manages a refugee camp just five kilometres from the Syrian border. Abdo takes his responsibilities seriously and works tirelessly for his fellow refugees. Nemr is a 19-year-old high-school student who fled forced military recruitment: “My destiny would have been to become a killer or a victim.” He volunteers in the camp’s school but dreams of a better future. Reem is a former architect who now helps in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. As a refugee she is not supposed to work but spends her time trying to help those worse off than herself. Mwafak is a 26-year-old artist, also based in Beirut. Mwafak never stops giggling, but then we realise his humour is a defence mechanism, a means of survival, he is laughing at his own plight. He is proud; not wanting to be labelled a refugee he refuses to register with the UNRHC until he is forced to. Mwafak is driven by his imagination, his need to create art, and his talent. He also volunteers, teaching art to children in another refugee camp.

All four show similar commitment to the health and education of Syrian children, however rudimentary. They recognise the importance of educating the next generation and that their homeland will need to be rebuilt with love and creativity rather than hate and violence. They exhibit extraordinary resilience in the face of unimaginable hardship but the relentless fear of deportation impacts on them all with devastating consequences. Both Nemr and Mwafak consider attempting the perilous journey by sea. Nemr ponders why anyone would want to risk their lives and concludes “they’re willing to drown just to live as humans.” Lost in Lebanon contains many such shocking soundbites. At a meeting organised by Reem, one man remarks on the hell they find themselves in: “We can’t go back to Syria, we can’t renew our residency, we can’t leave by boat. Why don’t they just exterminate us and be done with it.”

If you have ever wondered what life is like for a refugee then see this film. No one should have to endure this degree of psychological torture and the West needs to demonstrate compassion rather than prejudice or indifference. Sophia Scott’s beautiful cinematography opens in a long dark tunnel with blinding light at the end and the joyous sound of children playing, calling out the name of their homeland; it ends in the same tunnel but the camera is travelling in the opposite direction with the light receding. Birds also feature; just as they are free to travel over land and sea, refugees are not. The refusal of these men, women and children to give up offers a ray of hope. A remarkable and humane film that never strikes a false note.

Originally published by Cine-vue.com

 

 

 

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Film Review – I Am Not Your Negro

Posted by lucypopescu on April 10, 2017

 

 

Raoul Peck’s provocative and timely documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, is an incisive meditation on America’s black civil rights movement told through the eyes of the late novelist James Baldwin. Peck’s Oscar-nominated film focuses on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, about the lives and murders of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Baldwin, who was remarkably fortune to escape assassination himself, was friends with all three and their deaths were to have a profound effect on his life and work.

Interspersed with Baldwin’s reflections, narrated by Samuel L Jackson, is footage of various civil rights demonstrations from the 50s and 60s, together with recordings of Baldwin’s lectures, debates and TV appearances. He is an arresting, articulate figure with an incredible ability to summarise racial and cultural politics. “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America,” Baldwin once remarked. Peck underlines the continuing truth of this statement by juxtaposing past brutality – against civil-rights protesters in Birmingham and Selma in the 1960s – with more recent racism such as the violent assault of Rodney King by Los Angeles police filmed by a bystander in 1991. As Peck demonstrates, appalling inequality and racist attitudes prevail today.

In one essay, Baldwin described how mainstream cinema has helped fuel race divisions by presenting the differences between good and evil in black and white terms. Peck bring this vividly to life with scenes from popular American films dating from the 1930s. John Wayne’s cowboys, for example, were always on the side of right, and the native Indians were always the baddies – leaving the spectator to presume that they deserved to be massacred. In the 50s, blond bombshell Doris Day exemplified the perfect American wife while in early Hollywood films, black actors only featured as lackeys and servents serving to consolidate specific racial imagery.

Although past and current race relations are starkly drawn, Peck’s film never feels bleak. This is mainly due to Baldwin’s charismatic screen presence, his passion for reasoned argument and the power of his rhetoric.  As he claimed in one television interview: “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I’m forced to be an optimist. I’m forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive.”  It’s this resolute defiance that sets the tone for Peck’s film. Baldwin died in 1987 but I Am Not Your Negro serves to resurrect his indomitable spirit as well as introducing this great writer and social critic to new audiences.

Originally published by Cine-Vue.com

 

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Film review – A Quiet Passion

Posted by lucypopescu on April 10, 2017

 

Terence Davies is no stranger to biographical film, having mined his own life story to great effect in Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes.  The overall tone of his sensitive Emily Dickenson biopic mirrors the great American poet’s contemplative style. The languorous pace may divide audiences, despite some strong performances and memorable camerawork.

A Quite Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon, opens in 1848 with Dickinson’s family rescuing her from the evangelical Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She had been considered something of an outsider and was chastised for her lack of religious conviction – something she wrestled with for many years. Dickinson returns to her Amherst home with her beloved family, and there she remains for the rest of her life and the film’s duration.

Dickinson never ventured far from her Massachusetts home, apparently she never found a reason to leave, and so Davies focuses on her relationship with her family – the occasional power struggles with her stern father (Keith Carradine), her love for her supportive sister Lavinia (Jennifer Ehle), affection for her brother Austin (Duncan Duff), and despondency over her ailing, bedbound mother Emily (Joanna Bacon) as well as an ardent friendship with the feisty Vryling Wilder Buffum (Catherine Bailey).

Dickinson has to ask the permission of her father in order to write poetry and letters during the night and she proves a prolific correspondent. However, most of her letters were destroyed after her death and only a few poems were published in her life time. She never married and, considering herself unattractive, became increasingly reclusive and embittered in her final years. She died young, aged just fifty-five, never suspecting that she was to become one of American’s best known and loved poets. Davies matches Dickinson’s reflective nature with some ponderous takes – especially when the family are in the drawing room reading or crocheting. He admirably succeeds in conveying Dickinson’s stoicism and her frequent internalisation of emotional pain but, at times, A Quiet Passion feels desperately slow.

Although the sisters find succour in their affection for one another, their observance of familial duty is oppressive. Following the strict social mores of the time, they both quietly accept their formal, cloistered existence, rather than attempting to forge a life outside. It is no surprise that Lavinia also remained a spinster.  Nixon gives a hugely sympathetic performance and portrays Dickinson’s mental and physical decline with real conviction. She stands out from her fellow actresses, some of whom appear to have graduated from the same school of acting – there are a lot of stoical smiles and eyes brimming with tears. The men’s exuberant hair, admittedly true to the period, also proves something of a distraction.

Dickinson’s life, like many of her poems, was suffused with melancholy. Davies suggests her sole infatuation was with a rather dull, married clergyman who admires her poetry. It’s only fleetingly touched upon in the film and Dickinson’s obsession appears to come out of nowhere. Similarly, Austin’s affair with Mabel Loomis Todd (Noémie Schellens), who was to posthumously publish Dickinson’s poems, is barely explored and yet it almost destroyed the siblings’ relationship. While Davies vividly captures the period’s austerity and Dickinson’s despair at being misunderstood, there are a few too many scenes of repressed emotion followed by wild outbursts of grief. A Quiet Passion would have benefited from a subtler lightening of the shadows, if only to better appreciate the darkness which was to gradually engulf the reclusive but prolific poet.

Originally published by Cine-Vue.com

 

 

 

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Film review – Denial

Posted by lucypopescu on January 29, 2017

denialMick Jackson’s court room drama, Denial, focuses on the 1996 British libel suit brought by David Irving (Timothy Spall), the infamous Holocaust denier, against American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her publisher Penguin Books. Based on Lipstadt’s book, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for screen by David Hare, Denial offers some fascinating insights into Irving’s twisted logic and the intricacies of British law.

When Irving claims that Lipstadt’s book had attempted to destroy his reputation as a historian, Lipstadt is shocked to discover that the burden of proof is on the defendant. She is forced to come to London to argue her case with the help of British solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), a rising star after having represented Diana in her divorce from Prince Charles. Irving’s claims are outrageous – that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not used to kill Jews (according to Irving they were built to kill lice) and that Hitler had in fact opposed the murder of European Jewry. Because there is no photographic evidence of the actual genocide, these claims have to be tested in a court of law. More worryingly, Lipstadt’s representatives have to prove that Irving intentionally lied about the Holocaust and isn’t just effectively in denial.

Lipstadt has a formidable team working for her, including leading libel barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), while Irving chooses to represent himself in the hope of gaining public sympathy for what he refers to as a “David vs. Goliath” conflict. Even if one doesn’t already know the outcome of this renowned legal case, it’s pretty obvious who is going to triumph from the outset and this drains a degree of tension from the judge’s deliberations. Wisely, Hare’s screenplay focuses on Lipstadt’s conflicts with her legal team’s strategies and their refusal to allow her or any Holocaust survivors to take the stand. They argue that Irving, rather than the Holocaust, should be on trial. Lipstadt believes that survivors should not be denied a voice.

Apart from shots of Lipstadt’s seminars with her students, her morning runs, meetings with lawyers and a poignant visit to the remains of Auschwitz with Rampton, Denial is set largely in and around the court room. There are some excellent performances – in particular from Spall as the slippery and odious denier and Wilkinson as the wine-loving barrister who proves disconcertingly sharp-witted. Given the alarming rise of far right xenophobia, a film that portrays this memorable defence against fascism and the rewriting of history, feels exceptionally timely. There are more than a few parallels to be drawn between the swagger and deviousness of Irving and another well known falsifier, President Trump.

Originally published by Cine-Vue.com

 

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Film Review – Little Men

Posted by lucypopescu on September 25, 2016

imgresThe final film in a trilogy focusing on New York City, Ira Sachs’ lates feature, Little Men (2016), starring Jennifer Ehle and Greg Kinnear, follows the rites of passage of two thirteen-year-old boys Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri). Jake is a sensitive loner whose artistic talents are derided by his school teacher and initially ignored by his parents. By contrast, Tony, an aspiring actor, is confident, well-liked, and effortlessly connects with both adults and kids his own age.

They meet after Jake’s grandfather, Max, dies. Jake’s parents, Brain (Kinnear) and Kathy (Ehle), inherit Max’s Brooklyn apartment and the store below. This is rented by Tony’s Chilean mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia), a seamstress who sells handmade clothes. Brian is an actor and not having had a properly paid job for some time, lives off his wife’s earnings as a psychotherapist. He comes under pressure from his sister (Talia Balsam) to substantially increase the rent on the store with disastrous implications for Tony’s mum. As Leonor is quick to point out, Max had been a friend, was supportive of her work and wanted her to stay after his death. She’s also not above reminding Brian that he rarely visited his father and so is unaware of the attachment they formed in his final years.

Meanwhile, Tony has taken the awkward Jake under his wing and gets him to join the local drama group. As the adults’ relationship deteriorates, their friendship blossoms. Tony gives Jake the encouragement he lacks from his parents and suggests that they both join the same high school specialising in the arts. They watch video-games together and share their aspirations. When the adults’ tensions becomes apparent they decide to give them the silent treatment. But their friendship is sorely tested when Jake’s parents begin eviction proceedings against Tony’s mother.

Little Men is a tender portrait of two boys on the cusp of adulthood. Part of the film’s power resides in the emotional minutiae captured by the camera: Jake’s flicker of pain when he discovers his father has thrown out many of his drawings in the move from Manhattan to Brooklyn; Tony’s fleeting misapprehension as he attempts to comfort his mother. Sachs is also strong on the psychological complexity of familial relations. One of the most moving moments in the film comes when Jake breaks his silence with his father after seeing him perform in Chekhov’s The Seagull. In floods of tears he tells him how much they had admired his performance in the desperate hope that it might soften his hardline stance towards Leonor.

Barbieri and Taplitz give stunning performances, Ehle and Kinnear make convincing New Yorkers, and Sachs proves that extraordinary films can be made about ordinary lives. The eponymous little men are given a harsh induction into the world of adults and the film is tinged with regret. But, as Sachs demonstrates, the adaptability of teenagers, as opposed to the intransigence of adults, helps them to weather life’s storms.

Originally published by Cine-vue.com

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Film review – Things to Come

Posted by lucypopescu on September 8, 2016

Things to ComeMia Hansen-Løve’s fifth feature, Things to Come, starring Isabelle Huppert, is an introspective exploration of a woman losing her moorings and facing up to old age. Huppert plays Nathalie, a high school philosophy teacher. When Heinz (André Marcon), her husband of twenty-five years, also a philosophy lecturer, admits he has met someone else, she asks “Why did you tell me?” When he reveals that he is going to move in with her, Nathalie responds “I thought you would love me forever.” It’s a heart breaking moment, haunting in its simplicity. But for the most part, Hansen-Løve’s screenplay tackles profound questions with an intensity that some film goers might find off-putting.

Nathalie is delivered a series of emotional blows which cause her to question her own sense of self. Not only does she separate from her husband, a short time after she also loses her mother, Yvette. (Edith Scob delivers a terrific performance as a vain, demanding, former model, aging gracelessly). Yvette runs her daughter ragged, phoning her at all hours, threatening to commit suicide and refusing to eat, until Nathalie is forced to put her in a care home. There Yvette’s health quickly deteriorates – as though to punish her daughter for having put her there. Natalie’s children have left home and after Yvette’s death she is left with only her mother’s obese cat, Pandora, for company. She is suddenly free of all ties, but conversely this dents her confidence; her life loses direction and the paths to wellbeing she teaches her students seem harder to follow.

Nathalie’s academic reputation is also threatened when she is abruptly dropped by her publisher who deems her philosophy text book to be unimaginatively presented, despite the durability of the essays it contains. Then her protégé, Fabien (Roman Kolinka), a young writer, deserts her, both intellectually and geographically, by moving to a remote farmhouse and joining a commune of anarchists. Despite her growing vulnerability, Nathalie battles bravely on, continuing to teach and finding solace in her books. But one of the questions explored by Hansen-Løve is whether intellectual independence ever be an adequate substitute for emotional security?

Huppert’s finely nuanced portrayal of Nathalie’s interior life and her conflicting emotions is impressive. Beautifully shot by Denis Lenoir, Things to Come is a poignant study of aging and loss given an quintessentially French treatment by Hansen-Løve, but it never fully ignites. Although there is the suggestion that Nathalie’s life will acquire new meaning through the birth of her grandchild, her future is plagued by uncertainty and just as her emotional journey meanders without actually arriving anywhere, so does the film.

Originally published by http://www.cine-vue.com

 

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Film Review – Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Posted by lucypopescu on July 3, 2016

ab-fab-imgIt’s incredible to think that Absolutely Fabulous, the popular sitcom starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, ran from 1992–2012. Some twenty-five years after the TV pilot, the pair are back, this time on the big screen; older but no wiser. Given the current malaise settling on Britain, the timing of Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) could not be better. It’s all raucous, good natured fun and the laughs come thick and fast.

Patsy and Edina have been friends most of their lives. Now approaching sixty they attempt to revive their flagging careers and celebrity status by attending all the latest fashion shows and parties. Eddy still lives with her aging, but well-preserved, mother, played by June Whitfield, and her disapproving, stuffy daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) who has an impressionable daughter of her own, Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness), just waiting to be led astray by Patsy and Eddy.

It’s 2016, money is a problem and Eddy’s Bollinger racks are bare. Once a self-styled Queen of fashion PR, Eddy is down on her luck – in the world of social media, everyone can now shape their own image. She’s only got Lula and Baby Spice on her books but there’s a rumour that Kate Moss may be in need of new representation. Patsy and Eddy head for the next celebrity party aiming to snare Moss. Swigging their way through the “Bolly” and chain-smoking, they come a cropper when Eddy accidentally pushes the supermodel off a balcony into the Thames where she disappears from view under the water. Believing that Eddy has killed Moss, the pair flee to Cannes, taking Lola and her credit card with them, and hole up at one of the Riviera’s most exclusive hotels. There Patsy is forced to pose as a gigolo in order to attract the advances and wealth of an ancient crone. They swiftly marry and Eddy and Patsy look set for a life of luxury, lolling by the pool and chatting up the waiters, until the police (and Saffy) catch up with them.

There may not be much of a plot, but it’s all good, clean fun with numerous celebrity cameos: Kathy Burke, Christopher Biggins, Lily Cole, Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, Barry Humphries, Stella McCartney and Graham Norton to name but a few. Director Mandie Fletcher exploits every opportunity for spectacle and visual gags: such as when Patsy wakes up and starts injecting her face with Botox; when she is tasered by a surly airhostess (Rebel Wilson) on a budget airline; or when she meets the smouldering Jon Hamm (Mad Men) at a party and a look of horror passes across his face as he recalls losing his virginity to her at the age of fifteen. Lumley dressed as a man, complete with pencil moustache, is also a joy to behold.

It’s the stars that make the movie and some may feel that’s something of a cop out but, in these days of austerity, the excesses and absurdity of Absolutely Fabulous feel strangely uplifting, even if it is all over in a flash.

Originally published by Cine-vue.com

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Film Review – The Meddler

Posted by lucypopescu on July 3, 2016

 

 

The MeddlerAlthough Lorene Scafaria tender, bittersweet comedy, The Meddler (2016), starring Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons, is marred by the occasional cliché, it’s also an unexpectedly perceptive film about loneliness, grief and mother-daughter relationships.

After the death of her beloved husband, Joe, Marnie Minervini (Sarandon) moves to Los Angeles to be close to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a successful, but frustrated, screenwriter. Lori is still recovering from a recent break up with her actor boyfriend (Jason Ritter) and resents her smothering mother’s frequent attempts to connect (Marnie is addicted to texting and voice messaging her daughter.) Unabashed, Marnie attempts to charm Lori’s friends instead, freely dispensing advice, offering to babysit and generously agreeing to pay for one friend’s wedding. She even drops in on Lori’s therapist, hoping to learn more about her daughter’s state of mind. Lori throws herself into her work while Marnie struggles to stave off loneliness.

Marnie’s attempts to keep busy lead to some surprising encounters. She befriends a salesman in an Apple store (Jerrod Carmichael) and encourages him to take evening classes. She even offers to drives him there and back. She reunites a confused old woman in hospital with her family. But her most memorable run in is with Zipper (Simmons) a retired cop who, by contrast, rescues Marnie on more than one occasion.  He rides a Harley Davidson, keeps chickens, and plays guitar.

There’s an evident romantic attraction between the pair but Marnie is hesitant to take things further and, we realise, she still hasn’t got over the death of Joe. This is further underlined when she visits Joe’s family in New York and they have to remind her that it is actually two years since he died and not one. Marnie has lost all track of time – that’s what grief does. Her hatred of silence, her constant need to chatter, to connect with others, is so that she doesn’t have to think about her loss. By contrast, Lori’s grief manifests itself in the frustration she shows Marnie when she oversteps the boundaries she has so assiduously erected.

Scafaria is writing from personal experience and it shows in some of the understated but utterly credible scenes which illuminate the grieving process. Undoubtedly there are some cringe-worthy moments in a narrative that is, on one level, about meddling Mums and fresh starts. But take The Meddler as something a bit more, a film about loneliness and loss, and there are ample rewards. Not least Sarandon’s pitch-perfect central performance as a mother who is both frustrating and fun to be around and whose restlessness helps her to remain sane.

Originally published by Cinevue.com

 

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Film Review – The Crossing & At Home in the World

Posted by lucypopescu on March 17, 2016

 

London Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2016:

Migration is one of the major themes explored at the 20th Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

 

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The Crossing (George Kurian)

Photojournalist and filmmaker George Kurian’s absorbing documentary, The Crossing (2015) follows the fortunes of a small group of Syrian refugees who leave Egypt for Europe in an old fishing boat. They are rescued from the sea by sailors aboard an oil tanker who convey them to Genoa. However, their relief and elation swiftly evaporate as they are overwhelmed by the level of bureaucracy that confronts them. They find themselves dispersed to various refugee camps and hostels where they have to wait long, lonely months before being granted asylum in Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Belgium.

Kurian’s subjects are all articulate Syrians hoping to work in their European sanctuaries. Rami films their sea journey and arrival in Italy. His friend Nabil is a classically trained oud player and Angela is a TV journalist hoping to reunite with her husband Najib in Paris. As Rami observes early on, they are not pursuing “a better life” but want “just to have a life”.  The Crossing is an affecting study of those fleeing conflict. Kurian reminds us that hopes and dreams don’t diminish when people are forced to leave their homeland, and illuminates some of the harshest problems faced by refugees while trying to build a new life in a foreign world.

 

At Home in the World (Andreas Koefoed)

At Home in the World

 

Many of those forced to seek sanctuary in Europe are children. Andreas Koefoed’s At Home in the World (2015) focuses on the lives of five young asylum seekers trying to settle in Denmark. The children are from various countries, including Chechnya and Afghanistan, and are cared for and educated by a group of dedicated teachers at a Red Cross School for refugees. Dorte and her colleagues try to prepare their charges for life in a regular Danish school. Unfortunately some of the pupils are living in limbo, unsure if they will be deported or granted leave to remain. Magomed, for instance, is allowed to stay but a question mark remains over his father’s application casting a dark cloud over his life. He is painfully aware that his father will be killed or imprisoned if he is returned to Chechnya.

Time and again images of refugee children elicit the most sympathy in today’s media and Koefoed capitalises on this. One cannot help be moved by the plight of these kids; their confusion, anger and despair. Some have forgotten how to be children. But there’s also hope as we watch them master Danish, make cakes, play football and learn how to smile again. Interspersed with the schoolroom scenes are shots of dark woodland reminding us of the perils of the unknown – the forests of fairy tales are traditionally a place of initiation and potential horrors and have a strong association with the unconsciousness (Koefoed underlines the point when Dorte retells the story of Hansel and Gretel).

In the film’s final credits we learn that the school’s funding has been cut. At Home in the World serves to underline the urgent need for governments to spend time and money helping to assimilate traumatised children who may have witnessed unspeakable horrors on their journey to safety and continue to live in uncertainty.

Originally published by Cine-Vue.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Film Review – Mediterranea

Posted by lucypopescu on March 17, 2016

 

MediterreneaJonas Carpignano’s debut feature Mediterranea (2015) follows the fortunes of two African migrants, Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) and Abas (Alassane Sy), friends from Burkina Faso in search of a better life. They endure a hazardous journey through Algeria and survive a run in with violent bandits. Once in Libya, they join a group of illegals for the dangerous voyage over water. All are dismayed when the smugglers ask for a volunteer to pilot the boat that will take them to Europe. Ayiva and Abas cross the Mediterranean in a fragile, overloaded dingy that capsizes in a storm, terrifyingly evoked by Carpignano and cinematographer Wyatt Garfield. Others do not make it.

The two friends end up in Rosarno, a small town in southern Italy, with few working opportunities and nowhere to live. The pair are forced to pick and pack oranges for meagre wages and inhabit unsanitary shacks. Ayiva, we learn, has left behind his seven-year-old daughter with his sister. He dreams of making enough money to bring them over. This seems impossible given that he has only a three-month permit to remain and no idea how to find the requisite work contract in order to obtain legitimate residency papers.

Many of the African women they encounter have turned to prostitution to survive and most of the local men are hostile towards the migrant community. Respite comes in the form of Mama Africa (Norma Ventre) an Italian pensioner who feeds the workers but expects adulation in return and Ayiva’s dealings with Pio (Pio Amato), a sharp Italian kid and aspiring Mafioso.

Once the orange season is over, many of the migrants find they are no longer needed and the locals set about trying to evict them or hound them out. After two black workers are killed, the subsequent protest swiftly turns violent with brutal consequences for the two friends. Seihon’s own experiences inspired Mediterranea and Carpignano has developed the subject from an earlier short, A Chjàna (The Plain, 2012) based on the 2010 Rosarno riots which resulted in 1,000 African workers being removed from the area for their own protection.

Carpignano chooses to shoot many of the scenes in semi-darkness – this adds to the film’s gritty realism but is frustrating to watch – and makes it harder for us to follow an already fragmented narrative. However Seihon’s mesmerising performance ensures we emphasise with his predicament and keep rooting for him. It’s a dark, sadly topical tale and Carpignano (an Italian-American) wisely offers various perspectives without ever coming across as judgmental or overly preachy. Instead, Mediterranea bears witness to the hardship endured by so many migrants who undertake horrific journeys, struggle to find work and accommodation and suffer insidious discrimination and racist attacks.

Originally published by Cine-Vue.com

 

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