Sam wanders his Italian island town with his slingshot, dealing with a sight-correcting eyepatch, getting family history stories from his elders. Meanwhile, the Lampedusa coast guard detects and rescues overloaded boats full of dead and desperate refugees. We’re told these things are happening nearby each other, though they never intersect.
Rosi in Fandor:
Samuele, he’s afraid of the life coming. Everything he does is somehow creating suspense for something we don’t know how to face, with our laziness and our anxiety: the world that is coming through Lampedusa … Subconsciously the viewer identifies with Samuele, but they are not able to say that they do. So in the end they’ll say it’s a film about migrants, but it’s not. It’s really on the coming of age of a little kid who lives on an island where everything reminds him about the sea. About the harshness of the sea, about the life on the sea, about becoming a fisherman, about suffering the sea sickness. But the people are not aware of that. So at the end they come out and all they remember is a film about migration.
Celluloid Liberation Front is suspicious:
Rosi’s idea of cinema remains highly questionable and Fire at Sea is ethically inadequate at best. Like virtually anything dealing with refugees these days, the film never bothers to mention the reasons why the wretched of the earth are being forced to flee their countries. This approach puts us in the very comfortable position of not being implicated, leaving us free to think about the amount of indignation and mercy we have to spare.