Sunday, November 29, 2015

A sobering look at immigrant plight

Director Jonas Carpignano makes his debut with Mediterranea, a timely story about African immigrants who find their to Italy from the West African nation of Burkina Faso. The early part of the film deals with the dangerous travels of two men Ayiva (Koudos Seihon) and Abas (Alassane Sy). A perilous trip takes the duo, along with other migrants, through Algeria to Libya and then, by boat, to Italy. Every step of the way, the travelers encounter obstacles. These range from attacks by bandits to nearly losing their lives when their boat capsizes during a storm. Once in Italy, the film settles down a bit, but troubles don't abate. Aviv and Abas struggle to obtain proper papers, to survive on low wages and to endure living conditions that make substandard sound like an upgrade. The Africans find both compassion and hostility from the residents of Rosarno, a Calabrian town known for strained relations between locals and immigrants. Carpignano's direction can be choppy, but he doesn't canonize what seems a varied group of immigrants. A Skype call between Ayiva and the seven-year-old daughter he left behind proves particularly affecting, and by the end, we recognize that immigrant stories -- once so full of promise -- now can become stories of brewing bitterness and crushed hopes.

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