Mediterranea, which premiered worldwide at the last year’s Cannes festival, seemed to bear a mark of one of the most intriguing films of this decade – it took the unfavorable position of defending the immigrants in Europe. And as far as the technical aspect of debuting director Jonas Carpignano are tremendously delivered, the very essence and message of the film remains questionable. To say the least.
Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) and his younger brother Abas (Alassane Sy) embark on a journey to Italy from Africa. After they survive the severe weather conditions in the open sea, they face the brutal reality of the refugees – they are not welcome in the foreign country.
The topic of immigrants will be the emerging trend in the modern cinema – it was already started by last year’s Cannes winner, Jacques Audiard and his Dheepan. There is no coincidence I mention this film in the beginning of this review, because the French drama takes the same position in its approach towards the foreigners as Mediterranea. Although Ayiva commits some petty crimes, while striving to somehow remain alive in the slums of Rosarno, he quickly proves his worth to the audience. He finds a job and ardently tries to blend in and respect the chance he’s given.
Nevertheless, this monument build by the director, falls in the wake of the events we witness. Even though Carpignano chooses to oppose against the waves of blameworthy violence directed at the immigrants, he manages to stress out where the hatchet is really buried. If every foreigner in Rosarno wanted to be sincere and worked, there would harshly be such series of negative reactions. But eventually, Ayiva is the solitary exception, proving that the common language just cannot be defined in such inflammable conditions as we face today. Therefore, Mediterranea is a poem of dreams, which will always remain dreams – a poem about a man, whose voice dies in the ubiquitous scream of anger of others. Still, Carpignano’s stand seems to lack depth and fine reasoning, understanding of both sides – the feeling of “bad Europe” is weaved meticulously into the film.
Putting aside Carpignano’s stand in the entire case, Mediterranea has got plenty to offer as a film itself. The drama is narrated with the documentary vibe, which provides a thrilling experience. The events shown in the film truly seem to be a story of Ayiva from Burkina Faso and not an imaginary person. Koudous Seihon’s presence is also a solid ground for the director – it’s a charismatic, “heftily-written” character, but due to the superb cinematography, also surprisingly realistic and convincing. On top of that comes the soundtrack by Dan Romer – subtly used in the moments of Ayiva’s wistfulness, it draws an almost ethereal line between the brutal reality and the protagonist’s dreams.
Mediterranea is a well-directed, well-designed piece of art on one hand. Undoubtedly, Carpignano’s debut should be considered a success, but his stand in the immigration topic seems a bit naive to me. Since this is the director’s opinion, the film is his manifesto – a rather one-sided voice, which was destined to be suppressed by the the Europeans, who actually struggle with this problem. As much as we need films about this problem, we should be given a broader picture – there are always two sides of the same coin.
UMP Grade: 37/50
(Cinematography: 8, Plot: 7, Acting: 7.5, Soundtrack: 7.5, Quaintness: 7)