Gianfranco Rosi discusses the making of Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare): finding his protagonist, developing the film’s aesthetic, creating the sound mix, and discovering the film’s title. This is an excerpt from the ebook In Their Own Words: Documentary Masters Vol. 1. To read the full interview, purchase a copy of the ebook here.
“I wanted to somehow shift the point of view,” Gianfranco Rosi, the director of Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) explained. In the last 20 years, over 500,000 refugees have passed through Lampedusa en route to Europe. But most of what’s known about Lampedusa in the rest of the world has been largely focussed on the migrant crisis; its the closest part of Europe to Libya, and just 113 km away from Tunisia. It was as if the people who live on this 20km2 island didn’t really exist.I wanted to somehow shift the point of view. I didn’t want this place to just be a collector of stories linked to tragedies of the migrants. Click To Tweet
Gianfranco Rosi on telling the full story of Lampedusa: the locals and the migrants
In the film, Rosi wanted us to “encounter the people of the island, and then through them, tell the story of the migrants. I didn’t want this place to just be a collector of stories linked to tragedies of the migrants. I wanted also to have an identity for the people who live there.” When Lampedusa first became a hub for immigration, there was some interaction between the migrants at the locals. However, that changed “three or four years ago,” Rosi recalled, “when the European Union moved the European border into the middle of the sea. There’s this patrolling of the military so that the boats are intercepted in the middle of the sea and then brought into Lampedusa, and then from Lampedusa back to the mainland. Somehow, these two realities get separated.”
Gianfranco Rosi on Lampedusa as a microcosm of Europe
For Rosi, this separation between the migrants and the locals meant that “Lampedusa became a microcosm of what is Europe: these two worlds that barely touch each other, but somehow there is never an interaction.” He wanted to explore this by making a local boy, Samuele Pucillio, the protagonist of the film. Rosi explained, “he has this link with the past and the identity of the place. The world of the kids is the world that brings us beyond Lampedusa and enables us to face the sense of the tragedies that is coming through the island through the daily lives of the people. These two parallel worlds never meet and never interact, but there’s an emotional mood that creates a link between the two of them.”
To read the rest of the interview with Gianfranco Rosi on Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare), purchase a copy of the ebook In Their Own Words: Documentary Masters Vol. 1 here.