Mediterranea movie full length review - Hot topic (spoilers)
Never has a tale of an African migrant crossing the Mediterranean sea from Tripoli to Southern Italy been so timely. Daily reports of large numbers making the perilous journey abound and this path of migration into Europe and the EU is one of the many routes being used.
This tale looks at what happens to those African migrants who survive the journey and arrive in Italy seeking work to provide for their families back home and establish a life in their host country. This film is set in the present but it harks back to a riot in 2010 when the migrants protested their treatment by the local population in Rosarno. Rosarno is a town at the toe of the boot that is Italy on maps. This film is the biography of real life migrant Koudous Seihon, who appears in the film playing himself under the character name of Aviya. It is Aviya, a new arrival from Burkina Faso, that we follow and it is his perspective on events with which the film is concerned.
Aviya travels with his friend Abas from Burkina Faso to Algeria and then across the land border into Libya before crossing the Mediterranean. Along the way we witness Aviya being a chameleon who adapts to his situation and makes the best efforts to get ahead regardless of what is happening around him. He sells shoes to his fellow migrants for the desert crossing. He negotiates his friend's seat for the journey. He is a survivor.
There are lots of details during the journey that are not lingered on but inform the attentive viewer that surviving is a feat in itself. People are robbed and shot. People are sea sick and, when the boat's motor ceases, people cannot swim. Those who can and make it to a temporary sea refuge from which to hail for help are not strong enough to hang on. Bodies, lost lives and with them hopes and needs litter the way.
Upon arrival in Italy Aviya and Abas discover that living conditions are somewhat worse than they left in Burkina Faso. Home is a make shift hut with no insulation, a burner for wood and a thin quilt. There is no running water, rats occupy the same quarters and food is as and when. Nonetheless the migrants are not giving up; a market of sorts has emerged in the shanty town and there are locals willing to do trade. Work is not readily available and when it is, it is back breaking, potentially dangerous and low paid. Aviya sets himself to cultivating relationships with dealers, with local employers, with their families and with his other migrants. Abas rebels, angered by the way they are being treated. When one considers the challenges and traumas of their journey Abas's anger and contempt are understandable.
Tensions culminate in a spontaneous riot after two migrants were shot by police. During the riot Abas is beaten to a pulp and he seems unlikely to survive. Aviya survives and takes stock of his situation. Initially he wants to return home; emotional, tired and defeated he cannot see how to survive. Then a Skype conversation with his sister and young daughter ignites the last of his resolve and it appears he stays. The film leaves open Aviya's ultimate decision and fate but Koudous Seihon did stay. He was present at a Q/A conducted at the London Film Festival and in the company of the director, Jonas Carpignano and the actor who played Abas, Alassane Sy.
In spite of its bleak story this film is a pot-pourri of feelings: There is anger, hatred, racism, aggression and love, desire, fun, laughter, lots of humour and grief, sorrow and longing. The film was made on location in Southern Italy and Rosarno. It has the support of the residents of Rosarno and it is an important document for the European populace. The film does not attempt any answers; it shows how it was for one man. If migrants are not dissuaded from making the journeys then Europe and the wider Western world needs a better policy and response to those who survive.