Friday, 24 June 2016

REVIEW - FIRE AT SEA (GIANFRANCO ROSI)


My country has turned its back on these people. An island nation of whites, condemning countless brown and black faces to dehydrate and drown on waters mere miles from our own, mere miles that yet we've found all too easy to ignore, an ease that seems set to only increase. Gianfranco Rosi's observational style, its apparent passivity contrasted by its intensity of focus and by Rosi's choices of focus points, thoughtful and thought-provoking, provides an ideal outlook to Fire at Sea's more disquieting sections. No flourishes, no embellishments, no direction except that of the action that it documents - a powerful film in that it captures a powerful reality. It is thus that Rosi's focus points must then come under more sceptical scrutiny. The lives of Lampedusa's inhabitants remain curiously unchanged, and inferences are drawn between the lack of concern Rosi identifies in his subjects and that of the wider European community, growing all too accustomed to tragedy no longer on its doorstep but with both feet already through it. But these inferences are altogether too subtle in Fire at Sea, which often gets caught up in gentle character comedy and a thoroughly un-cinematic mundanity in that observational style. It's a fine contrast to the more harrowing material, but it's unnecessarily dwelt upon in this regard, distracting from the crux of this film's own concerns, which leaves much of its first two thirds worthy but bland. This powerful reality does receive the treatment warranted by its power, but too little, too late. As a statement on this cleft continent's current situation, it's as thought-provoking as any other.