Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

  • Moving film tells the story of the Catalan activist who went to the aid of migrants trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos
  • Festival auditorium hosts a photo exhibition dedicated to the situation of the women in Afghanistan today

Updated 15 October 2021

Francesco Bongarrà

ROME: The tragedies of migrants risking their lives trying to reach Europe from North Africa and Syria was the focus of the inaugural day at the 16th Rome Film Fest, the annual film review that was opened on Thursday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

One of the opening films at the festival was “Mediterraneo,” by Spanish director Marcel Barrena, about the rescue of migrants at sea by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

The movie, starring Eduard Fernández, tells the story of the Spanish lifeguard Oscar Camps, the founder of Open Arms.

Moved by the indignation he felt at the photograph of the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose was washed up on a beach in Turkey, Camps decided to rescue immigrants from the sea, operating from the Greek island of Lesbos, a popular tourist destination that hosted a refugee camp where thousands of people lived in unsanitary conditions, subjected to inclement weather and constant anguish.

In 2015 alone, more than 450,000 people passed through Lesbos, an island of just 85,000 inhabitants.

In 2016 Pope Francis visited in Lesbos the refugee camp of Moria, which was later destroyed by a fire. He called on the international community to help “those who risk their lives to find a better future and to escape from war.”

Vatican sources told Arab News that the Pope may go back again to Lesbos “in the near future.” A new refugees camp is being built on the island, completely financed by the European Union.

Barrena told a festival press conference that his film, which has heartbreaking images of the thousands of people risking their lives to escape the war in Syria, is “a cry of protest and pain against Europe’s indifference to the drama of the immigration.”

The 39-year-old director spoke about the challenges of the conditions, filming in the open sea, with real refugees and thousands of extras speaking different languages.

The discovery of hundreds of people floating on the sea, one of the biggest dramas in recent European history, is among the most shocking scenes.

The director explained that his is “not a political film.” “It is about love for human beings. You can’t make a choice between leaving a person to die in the water or saving them. I can’t understand how it is possible that there are people who are not moved by this.”

The main foyeur of the auditorium is hosting “Afghana,” an exhibition of photos shot in the Emergency NGO’s maternity center in Anabah, in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.

The pictures by photographer Laura Salvinelli tell the story of the doctors, nurses and patients in this medical facility. There is the smiling face of Zarghona who gave birth to the first son; Kemeya struggling with her fifth caesarean; the Kuchi nomad women during one of their seasonal passages through the Valley; and Asuda who, thanks to the Maternity Center, was able study and train to become a midwife.