Mediterranea: Sad, Tragic, Timely Refugees Tale of Survival

As writer and director, Jonas Carpignano shows much promise with his debut, Mediterranea, an extremely harsh account of the ordeals many Africans endure both before and after voyaging to Europe in search of better lives.

This remarkably timely film charts the life and death struggle of African migrants as they risk all that they have to start a new life in Europe.

Sadly, this feature has become even timelier due to the recent tragedy of the sinking of an immigrant boat bound for Italy off the coast of Libya, which involved hundreds of deaths

The protagonists, Ayiva (first time actor Koudous Seihon) and Abas (Alassane Sy) are close friends from Burkina Faso, determined, like millions of others in their status, to make it to Italy in order to find work and provide for their families back home.

They first survive the harrowing journey-desert bandits, then a treacherous sea voyage, even an arrest, indicating that they were far from being prepared to face the various forms of hostility and violence that await them.

As a refugee tale, the movie could have been even more powerful if helmed with clearer eye and surer hand.  While Carpignano deserves credit for not over-dramatizing or exploiting its topical subject, the film is more effective as a character study than as an account of the broader socio-cultural-political contexts.

Even so, a gripping tale of survival, Mediterranea is told with such vivid realism, that in its good moments it approximates a documentary, immersing viewers in the kind of crisis that’s become too much of a reality.