The first documentary to ever win the top award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Fire at Sea takes place in Lampedusa, a once peaceful Mediterranean island that has become a major entry point for African refugees into Europe. There, we meet Samuele, a 12-year-old boy who lives simply, climbing rocks by the shore and playing with his slingshot. Yet nearby we also witness thousands of men, women, and children trying to survive the crossing from Africa in boats that are too small for such a journey. Filmmaker Gianfranco Rose masterfully places these realities side by side, and in so doing creates a remarkable third narrative that jolts us into a new understanding of what is really happening in the Mediterranean today
Gianfranco Rosi sure know how to tell an intimate story of tragedy, comedy and life in his documentaries. The Italian filmmaker has won a ton of awards and has been nominated for Oscars, most recently with 'Fire At Sea' that tells the harrowing tale of the African and Syrian migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to the Italian island of Lampedusa. With all of the ridiculous news of the current President of the United States, you might not have seen stories of these migrants who are dying by the thousands on small boats to live a better and healthier life.
The newspapers and news reporters might devote a minute or two to this crisis, but Gianfranco Rosi goes several extra steps further in giving us a spotlight view of the horrors and sometimes endearing moments of some of these refugees lives. Rosi shows the lives of some of the islanders as well as the migrants who make it there alive. We even get to see some of the big rescues on the water where maybe only a third of the people survive on the boat. It's pretty intense to say the least.
However, if you're looking for a conclusion of sorts, Rosi never gives you this peace of mind of everything wrapped up in a tight little bow, because that's not how life really is. Instead, he cuts at the appropriate time to leave us wondering what is meant for these migrants. If there was a certain subject here, it would be a twelve year old boy from a fishing family who looks at what life is life on the island and how all of the migrants enter the island. It's all innocent enough, but there is a bit of unnerving qualities to this twelve year old boy that we see how his life might turn out. We also see another subject throughout in the form of a doctor, who examines and helps the incoming migrants.
Some of the visits and examinations are joyous and funny, while many others are very unfortunate and sad, but again, so if life. Rosi takes a look at these situations in a very subtle way, which has a bigger impact in the long run. 'Fire At Sea' is a tragic, yet beautiful look at what humanity is capable of. Some of it is great, while other times are not and Rosi flawlessly captures every breathtaking moment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Fire At Sea' comes with 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Kino Lorber and is Region A Locked. There is a 10 page booklet with an essay by the assistant professor of Italian and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto - Alberto Zambenedetti. There are no other inserts. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case.
'Fire At Sea' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a digitally shot feature that shows off some very vivid and sharp detail throughout. Closeups reveal individual hairs and the physical health issues on the migrant's bodies very well. It's unfortunate to see. Wider shots show the beautiful water and all its ebbs and tides along with the rusty boats and island vegetation.
Colors are vibrant and pop off screen at every chance. The greens of the island and the blue skies and water look excellent. It almost looks like there is a muted tone that washes over the picture at times, but that's a style choice. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There was some mild banding here and there, but nothing to write home about, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix in Italian and sounds great with the English subtitles, however, it's not a fully immersive experience. The track is very front heavy, but also dynamic. The mix really takes effect during the rescue operations and mild ambient noises of the island life.
Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along with the subtitles and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. For being a documentary with no big explosions or action sequences, this audio presentation is quite good.
Interview #1 (HD, 5 Mins.) - Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi discusses making the film and some of the subjects that are followed.
Interview #2 (HD, 30 Mins.) - This is an excellent interview with the doctor of the Hospital of Lampedusa Pietro Bartolo, as he discusses the ongoing crises of the migrants.
NYFF Q&A (HD, 24 Mins.) - Film critic Dennis Lim moderates a Q&A at the film festival with filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi as he talks about making the film.
Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Booklet - A 10 page booklet with an essay by the assistant professor of Italian and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto - Alberto Zambenedetti.
'Fire At Sea' takes a look at both sides of life, which is beautiful and tragic all at the same time. Rosi's camera gives you an inside look at what life is like for the migrants who are looking for a new and better life, while also giving a glimpse at the islander's life during this crisis. After viewing the documentary, you will know why this won so many awards. The video and audio presentations are both good, and the extras give insight into the ongoing crisis and what it was like to make the film. Recommended!