The Berlin Film Festival, the weekend of crowds, of sun, of endless queues, of sold out theaters is always hard work. And the German “organizational machine” is not as flawless as legend has it. Indeed Germany’s Merkelian policy of rigor and control seems in trouble. One could even find rats in the streets. (European common denominator, or nostalgia for Nosferatu?)
Saturday was the day of Italian film: that is, for the only one in competition, Fuocoammare (“Fire at Sea”), a new documentary by Gianfranco Rosi, who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with his 2013 film Sacro GRA and created the masterpiece Below Sea Level.
One of Italy’s best directors, Rosi is among the few who can be trusted to present a theme as complex as that of the migrant crisis on the island of Lampedusa — and especially an issue so extensively chronicled. But Fuocoammare has little to do with the stream of news images.
There are no talking heads, interviews or dissertations. And Rosi manages to film what most cannot: the death, the pain, the bodies of corpses covered in bags that are brought up every day from barges in the middle of the sea, each with its own story that we will never know but, at that point, are not important. The film does this with modesty, and these are the strongest moments of the film, as it follows the actions of rescue workers. In their eyes you see and share the feeling at times — too many times — of helplessness. We listen to the voices, the radio cries for help rolling in every day, responding to them a task that seems infinite.