Movies don’t come much more timely than Mediterranea.
A glimpse into the struggles of African refugees landing on the shores of Italy, this debut feature from director Jonas Carpignano is often both harrowing and moving though this film festival favorite with three Independent Spirit nominations falls short of some of the similar, and even more tragic, stories that can be heard just by turning on the news.
Koudous Seihoun is Ayiva and Alassane Sy is the shyer Abas, two friends desperate enough to leave their native Burkina Faso to pay smugglers to get them across the Libyan and Algerian borders and then across the Mediterranean in small, ill-equipped boats. Their goal is to earn enough to money to send back to their impoverished families. In particular, Ayiva has a young daughter (Naciatou Zanre), who has remained at home, to care for.
Things don’t go as planned. They are robbed in the North African desert by bandits and rescued from certain death at sea by Italian authorities. Once in Italy, they get by trading valuables on the street and toiling as farmworkers. While they are harassed by locals and police, they also find kindness and kinship with some Italians and other immigrants.
One of the film’s best scenes is when Ayiva uses Skype to chat with his daughter after sending her a cheap MP3 player loaded with Rihanna’s track We Found Love. As the girl dances to the lyrics of “we found love in a hopeless place,” a tear rolls down Ayiva’s cheek and his desperation and loneliness become real.
In French, Italian, Arabic and English with English subtitles
Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas; video-on-demand
Director: Jonas Carpignano
Cast: Alassane Sy, Koudous Seihon, Pio Amato
Rated: Unrated (strong language, violence)
Running time: 110 min.