Two men make the dangerous journey from Africa to Italy for a better life, but then face hostility and violence in this shocking look at the life-and-death struggle of refugees.


Jonas Carpignano

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ferguson-6 7 /10

Survival skills

Greetings again from the darkness. Success on the film festival circuit is much deserved for this first feature film from writer/director Jonas Carpignano, as he expands his short film A Chijana (2012). It's based on the true story of a young man who migrated from Burkin Faso to the southern Italy town of Rosarno. What makes this special is that the real immigrant, Koudous Seihon, stars in the film and recreates much of what he went through.

We witness the obstacles facing those trying to leave Africa … they need money and assistance and a whole lot of luck. Mr. Seihon plays Ayiva, and he is traveling with his brother Abas (Alassane Sy). The rickety boat they pile into is one most of us wouldn't consider sea-worthy enough to cross the Mediterranean Sea (especially through a storm), but it's their only option.

They are certainly disappointed in the shanty town that becomes their new home. However, soon enough they realize sleeping on the ground in cold weather with but a thin quilt is no hardship compared to the everyday risk of violence and racism. Most of the locals are not welcoming in the least, and the hatred often escalates. It's what led to the riots of 2010, which director Carpignano touches on here.

The film has a no-frills docu-drama feel to it, and Seihon has a real screen presence. Ayiva's survival skills are enhanced by his ability to blend into his environment – he becomes what he needs to be to persevere. Unfortunately his brother rebels and lets his anger affect his actions. The real world struggles of migrants and refugees are a global issue these days, and the film brings into focus some of the struggles faced by those who see no other option.

Reviewed by paul-allaer 8 /10

Setting aside the humanitarian aspects, "Mediterranea" works great as a movie

"Mediterranea" (2015 release from Italy; 110 min.) brings the story of Aviya and Abas, two guys from Burkina Faso (in central Africa). As the movie opens, we see them starting the long journey towards Tripoli (2700 mi. away), by truck and by foot, through deserts and towns. At one point, the group of about 20 is ambushed by 'desert pirates', and by the time they are to depart from Tripoli, they have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, literally. After a dangerous trek across the Mediterranean See in a Zodiac boat, they arrive in Italy, and hook up with an acquaintance already living in Rosarno, in southern Italy (just past Sicily). What will become of these guys? How will they be treated by the locals? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the debut film of writer-director Jonas Carpignano, and what a movie this is! I cannot claim to know whether what we see here is realistic, although it certainly resembles the images that we have seen (time and again) on TV of the many migrants from Africa, in a desperate quest to make it to Europe. This movie premiered at Cannes 2015, so this was probably filmed in the Fall of 2014, if not earlier. In other words; before the trickle of migrants became a wave until it became a tidal wave. What I'm getting at is that what we see here, as tough as it is, probably was the "good era" before European countries felt besieged. It's also noteworthy that we are not given any information as to why these guys are fleeing their home country: is a civil war going on? or are they simply tired of their economic condition and want to build a better life in Europe? The director does a great job giving us the nuances of what it is like for a small town in Italy to be confronted with these uninvited migrants from Africa. I was not familiar with any of the lead performers, but the actor portraying Ayiva is nothing short of outstanding. Bottom line: this may be uncomfortable viewing for some, but, even putting aside the humanitarian aspects of these issues, I thought this movie was excellent.

As mentioned, this premiered two years ago, to critical acclaim. It never made it to the theater here, but by happenstance it played last week for one screening only at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. That screening, presented by the University of Cincinnati's "European Film Series", was attended very nicely, I'm happy to say. "Mediterranea" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Reviewed by Turfseer 8 /10

Auspicious debut for first-time director chronicling sad experience of African migrants in Italy

Mediterranea is the first feature film of Jonas Carpignano who based his tale of African migrants emigrating to Italy on his own earlier short film created in 2012. Carpignano traveled to Italy after a race riot in the town of Rosarno in 2010 and decided to investigate the unfortunate plight of African migrants in European cities, specifically in Italy, where the problem is particularly vexing.

Carpignano was fortunate to find first-time actor, Koudous Seihon, who plays Ayiva from the African country of Burkina Faso. He, along with his buddy, Abas, make the perilous journey through Algeria on to Libya and then take a harrowing boat ride, where both the intrepid and foolhardy emigrants are picked up by the Italian coast guard after their flimsy boat capsizes in a storm. Carpignano highlights the horrors of the journey including scores of migrants packed into old trucks like sardines, trekking through the desert on foot and then being robbed of all their money by bandits and finally being forced to pilot a rickety motor boat without the aid of a competent navigator.

Once they arrive, Ayiva is met by an uncle who only can provide shelter for a very short time. They are guided to a shantytown by a buddy from the old country and are given a 3 month temporary residence permit by the Italian government. If they are unable to find regular "contract" work, they will be forced to return home.

Carpignano documents Ayiva's sad travails in a cinema-verité documentary style. A good deal of the plot is episodic: in an early scene, Ayiva steals a suitcase on a train in order to obtain sweaters for himself and Abas. He also negotiates the sale of an MP3 player with a young 10 year old Italian hustler. that he also pilfered while on the train,

Eventually Ayiva finds work at an orange grove—the owner, Rocco, takes a liking to him and gives him extra work. The family invites some of the workers into their home and provide them with a home-cooked meal. While Ayiva is not averse to assimilating, Abas resents the minimal wages he receives and is content to put in the least effort he can.

Carpignano manages to humanize the plight of African migrant workers by focusing on both their private lives and the social milieu they exist in. Ayiva's SKYPE conversations with his wife and young daughter back in Africa reveal that he is at heart a family man. But being separated over such a long distance leads to an unhealthy interest in his boss' precocious young daughter who at one point Ayiva expresses a desire to have sex with. Free time is sometimes spent socializing with some African women who live double lives as prostitutes.

Carpignano also highlights the backlash from local residents, particularly young Italian toughs, who are constantly seeking to provoke the Africans into a fight. One scene features a car full of rowdies almost side-swiping Ayiva and his friends as they walk innocently on a road on the outskirts of the city.

The tension between the locals and the migrants reach their apex when word is received that two blacks have been murdered. Carpignano doesn't show us the circumstances of the murders and the news is thrown at us rather abruptly. Almost immediately, the migrants begin to riot, with the crowd chanting, "don't shoot at blacks." During the mayhem, Abas is beaten by a mob and seriously injured. Ayiva is also swept up in the mob violence and ends up also as a participant where cars are firebombed, property destroyed and individuals beaten.

There are certainly no happy endings for Akiva. It looks like he's going to return home after Rocco fails to help him obtain the necessary contract work which would lead to a permanent work permit. While the plot is not necessarily thoroughly developed, Carpigano's observations about the lives of African migrants in Europe are presented in sharp and prescient relief. There are assuredly more good things to come from Mr. Carpignano, whose auspicious debut should be thoroughly applauded.

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