Military training, solitary hunters, traumatized family members. A long procession of prisoners to match a long procession of soldiers (with alarming sound editing). A historical play enacted by psychiatric patients. Browsing ransom demands in voicemail. Loosely interwoven doc episodes filmed in four countries in the Middle East.
Mark Peranson in the great Cinema Scope cover story:
Notturno looks and sounds like what we would associate with a bigger-budget feature film, not something shot and recorded by one man over a three-year period. Often bereft of dialogue, the images are carefully framed.
Always there was this idea, even when I was filming Fire at Sea, “Where are these people coming from? What’s happening there?” … The challenge was to find these stories, because I went there not knowing anything, and I came back knowing less. I was able to grab and embrace stories and moments that left a very strong impact.
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.
Of course Rosi is the guy who made the terrifying guy-in-a-room interview doc El Sicario Room 164, not the terrifying guy-in-a-room interviewing doc Collapse, which is what I told Katy.
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.
Similar to Collapse, in that both are documentaries set in a room where a single subject is speaking to the camera, and both are completely terrifying. Collapse left me aimlessly afraid of the end of the world, this one offers a clear action item: Never go to Mexico.
A former “sicario” (drug cartel enforcer) who has escaped with his family tells about his youth (driving cars full of drugs over the border before he was even old enough to drive), training (at the police academy, where 25% of graduates are already working for the cartels) and 20-year career as a kidnapper, torturer and murderer at the behest of an unworthy man, as the now church-going ex-sicario realizes. The drug business basically runs the government, police, and even military, if this guy is to be believed. Never go to Mexico.
More so than Police, Adjective, the film that came to mind when watching El Sicario is the still relevant Chambre 666, wherein Wim Wenders set up a stationary camera in Room 666 of the Hotel Martinez during the 1982 Cannes film festival and asked filmmakers like Godard, Fassbinder, Herzog and Spielberg the question: “Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?” It’s no coincidence that the directors are framed, like the sicario often is, next to a television set.