Mediterranea (2015) - Jonas Carpignano
Jonas Carpignano's Mediterranea tells the arduous journey of of Ayiva & Abas, two men making the dangerous trek from Algeria to Italy in hope of a better life. Documenting not only the laborious trek to Italy, but also struggles with violence and hostility when they arrive safely, Jonas Carpignano's film is a poignant and immersive look at the struggle of refugees, being a very timely subject for the current state of world affairs. Jonas Carpignano uses a lot of handheld photography throughout Mediterranea, and while this style of filmmaking is overly used by today's contemporary filmmakers, the handheld is a good tactic for the film, making these two character's emotional and physical journeys much more felt by the viewer with this gritty style of photography. Being a first time feature by Jonas Carpignano, the film does struggle with uneven direction at times, with a few stunningly realized sequences, while others feel a bit contrived. While the final scene of the film is strong and a appropriate climax for the thematic issues the film raises about Refugees, one of my favorite sequences takes place before Ayiva and Abas even arrive in Italy, on a small boat, as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea. Venturing into a thunderstorm, Carpignano creates a truly terrifying sequence, with a pitch black frame and the terrified screams of the various refugee passengers, with the only lighting in the scene being provided by the relentless bursts of lightning in the sky. My problems with Carpignano's direction come in a few scenes and shot selections that try to force an emotional reaction from the viewer, as if Carpignano worries that this poignant story of survival isn't strong enough to create his message. It's not overwhelming, and quite frankly I may be nitpicking here, but a few such sequences involving the racist Italian community who show hostility towards Ayiva & Abas feel forced and emotionally manipulative, used solely to trigger an emotional effect from the viewer that was unnecessary. That being said, most of Mediterranea provides a poignant portrait of the daily struggles of men who are simply trying to survive and do what they believe is best for their families. The characterization of Ayiva is really the strength of the film, a man who does nearly everything right when he arrives in Italy, striking up a relationship with a Orange blossum farmer, who quickly recognizes Ayiva's hard work. This relationship is one of the more nuanced and profound aspects of the entire film, being friendly but also restrictive, symbolically capturing this air of racism and prejudice which exists between Italian citizens and refugees. Another interesting aspect of the film are two child characters which Ayiva befriends, a young street hustler & Martha, the daughter of Ayiva's rich boss. While both these characters come from extremely different backgrounds, Mediterranea captures the similarities in their curiosity, innocence and overall lack of hostility towards the refugees, making a point how this hostility which so many adults have towards outsiders is learned over time, not created at birth. Timely and poignant storytelling, Jonas Carpignano's Mediterranea is a beautiful testament to the struggles of those refugees who are simply trying to find a better life for them and their family, as the film simply asks, why can't humanity be more empathetic and less hostile.
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