Cranleigh Film Club – Fire at Sea: Directed by Gianfranco Rosi – 26th October

Bandroom at 7.30pm (doors open at 7.00pm and refreshments on sale)

A film for our time which is a masterful documentary about a major crisis, but is also a powerful insight into how ordinary people, on the periphery of the events, see and cope with the anguish and despair of refugees. Except for a few moments at sea the whole film is told on the tiny island of Lampedusa. In the last 20 years some 400,000 refugees have landed here and 15,000 have died in the attempt. Writer/director Rosi did not just turn up to film, he rented a small house and lived there for a year. He managed to gain entry to the island’s hard to access detention centre and spent a month with an Italian navy ship patrolling the West African waters. His dramatic concept for the work was to convey the refugee crisis in the context of the daily life of the islanders, who are not directly involved with the refugees but who are aware of their presence.

The key protagonists of this story are a 12 year old boy Samuele, the curious son of a fisherman, and the island’s only doctor who for decades has had to decide who is healthy enough for the detention centre , who needs to go to hospital, and who is dead. This doctor Pietro Bartolo is the link between the two communities. He also treats and advises Samuele whose main concern is making a slingshot target. The director’s eyes and ears are always alive to the cinematic moments , the looks of despair and exhaustion as the refugees are wrapped in thin metallic blankets, observing a Muslim prayer service, a makeshift football game, an African musician rapping about his experience.

One becomes aware that the situation is not a one time emergency which we occasionally notice when our news services report a mass drowning, but is a day in day out desperate tide of refugees from numerous countries. We do go to the “gates of hell” at one point when we enter a ship which has a number of dead refugees. But Fire at Sea makes us realise that these people have left behind lives and are now seeking to enter Samuele’s world to start new ones. Rosi works as his own cinematographer and his eyes catches so much more than conventional documentary makers. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It should be seen by all who care about their fellow human being.

This film will be the third of the seventh season of the film club, following the Georgian In Bloom on Sept.7, and the Russian Burnt By The Sun on Sept 27. The season price of £25 will still be well
worth paying for the remaining ten works from ten different countries. Contact for information on the club Membership Secretary Sara Lock at:

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Cranleigh Magazine