REVIEW: Mediterranea

19 05 2017

As the refugee crisis in Europe continues to persist, we’re starting to see its effects in the continent’s cinema. Documentaries like “Fire at Sea” and numerous Oscar-nominated shorts are paying attention to the harrowing voyage to shelter in Europe, while narrative filmmakers like the Dardenne brothers and Michael Haneke are crafting narratives around the influx of migrants.

Jonas Carpignano’s “Mediterranea” offers a perspective that, as of yet, seldom receives treatment on screen. It looks at refugees fleeing their homelands as more than just the physical incarnation of their tragedy. Carpignano surveys the whole of their existence, from low-wage labor to forming impromptu communities of support among fellow migrants. (As it turns out, one force that transcends national borders is an infectious pop ditty by Rihanna.) The characters complete the boat ride across the titular sea by the 30-minute mark of the film.

“Mediterranea” is far from revelatory in its narrative, but its simplicity and quiet dignity are worth the watch. When the fearful Italian villagers grow suspicious and disrupt the refugees’ shaky equilibrium, the effect is startling. More experienced, perceptive filmmakers will likely tackle similar stories to greater effect. But for now, Carpignano’s treatment provides a satisfactory window into a humanitarian emergency. B-

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