Writer-director-cinematographer Gianfranco Rosi’s mysterious, elliptical “Fire at Sea” (Fuocoammare) is one of the year’s most powerful documentaries. Rosi takes a sidelong glance at the ongoing migrant crisis around the Mediterranean, and specifically on Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island of 6,000 that extends toward Africa, only seventy miles away. Rosi refuses the lore of statistics, the lure of explanation as expiation. “Fire at Sea” does without music or commentary. Scenes unfold. Stories are implied. Fishermen go about their jobs; rescue workers pull migrants from the sea. Across a year of observation, Rosi moves in and out of stories. The pastoral life of the island is apart from the humanity crashing to the shore. The images he finds are bold, from the gentle to the dire, and at moments, hope is in limited supply, contrasting with the seawater that seems limitless. 114m. (Ray Pride)
“Fire at Sea” opens Friday, December 9 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.