Italian migration odyssey ‘Io Capitano’ hopes to reach viewers regardless of politics

by MMC
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Matteo Garrone’s migratory odyssey “Io Capitano” screened this weekend at the Marrakech International Film Festival, returning to the country where crucial scenes were filmed

MARRAKECH, Morocco — Italian director Matteo Garrone hopes that the way his film “Io Capitano” presents the journey taken by Senegalese teenagers to Europe as an adventure, albeit a harrowing one, will make it more captivating for audiences, regardless of politics .

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni called migration “the biggest challenge of her first year in office.” His government has worked to secure deals with neighboring Albania to house asylum seekers whose applications are being considered and a sweeping “migration aid” deal with Tunisia intended to prevent migration. illicit trafficking and crossings of the Mediterranean.

Although Garrone acknowledges that those who choose to see the film in theaters can already sympathize with the migrants who take great risks to reach the Europe they perceive as a promised land, he said in an interview with the Associated Press that showing the film in schools to teenagers who might not otherwise choose to see it was particularly powerful.

“It’s very accessible to young people because it’s the hero’s journey and an odyssey,” he says. “The structure is not complicated. They come in thinking they might fall asleep, but then they see it’s an adventure.

“Adventure” – a term used for years by West African migrants themselves and which describes them as more than just victims of circumstance – does not do justice to the film’s narrative, however. The plot is largely based on the life of script consultant Mamadou Kouassi, an Ivorian immigrant organizer living in the Italian town of Caserta.

The film shows the two cousins ​​Seydou and Moussa leaving their home without alerting their parents or knowing what to expect. They pay smugglers who falsely promise safe passage, bribe police officers who threaten to imprison them, and call their homes while members of Libyan mafias who run non-governmental detention centers extort them under threat of torture.

In Libya, cousins ​​see migrants being burned and hung in uncomfortable positions. Seydou is at one point sold as a slave to a Libyan who agrees to free him after building a wall and a fountain in a desert complex.

“There are more people who have died in the desert than anyone mentions,” Kouassi said, comparing the Sahara to the Mediterranean, where international agencies more regularly publish figures on the dead and missing.

“It makes a point of showing a truth that has not been told about the desert and the people who lost their lives there, in Libyan prisons or in slavery,” he added.

The subject of the film is familiar to those who follow migration news in Europe and North Africa. The structure of the film reflects many journalistic and cinematic representations of migrant stories. But “Io Capitano” shows no interest in documentary or cinema verite-style storytelling. Garrone’s shots of the Mediterranean and the Sahara depict them in beautifully panoramic splendor rather than as landscapes of death and emptiness.

Many scenes set in the Sahara were filmed in Casablanca and the desert surrounding Erfoud, Morocco. Garrone said he relied heavily on migrants from Rabat and Casablanca who worked on the film as extras. They contributed to consultations on scenes of crossing the Sahara and on detention centers in Libya.

“What was really important was to show a part of the journey that we don’t usually see,” he said. “We know that people are dying in the desert, but we usually only know numbers. Behind those numbers, there are human beings. beings who are very much like us.

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