Director:  Gianfranco Rosi

Length:  108 mins

Cast:  Pietro Bartolo, Samuele Pucillo, Samuele Caruana

Genre:  Documentary

Language:  In English and Italian with English subtitles


Europe’s migrant crisis—the mortal dangers that migrants face while travelling to Europe, and the difficulties of European institutions in receiving them—is given a prettified and distracted yet devoted consideration in Gianfranco Rosi’s documentary. It focusses on Lampedusa, the sparsely populated Italian island that is a destination for many of the overcrowded and rickety boats coming from North Africa. Rosi shows rescue workers desperately trying to reach foundering vessels. After a rapid medical triage of the survivors and a search for the dead, officers pat down and document the newcomers before dispatching them to shelters. There, they maintain a semblance of normalcy by means of soccer games, impromptu recitations, and phone calls home. Meanwhile, a doctor does his best to provide care. Rosi films the migrants empathetically but sentimentally; he depicts helicopters and ships with bombastic grandeur. What’s more, half the movie has nothing to do with migrants—it’s the story of a local boy named Samuele; his father, Nello, a fisherman; his grandmother, Maria; and other residents of the island. Rosi gets close to them without hearing from them; his context-free observation of them can imply anything or nothing.

The New Yorker

Director's Statement

In my films I have often found myself depicting circumscribed worlds, whether literally or ideally so. These universes, at times as small as a room, have their own logic and internal movements. To capture and convey them is the most complicated part of my job. So it was with the community of dropouts in the American desert (BELOW SEA LEVEL), an isolated world with its own rules where the border was one’s affiliation with an idea, or one’s condition. So it was with the narco-assassin turned informer, holed up in a motel room, re-enacting his crimes and explaining the rules of his criminal community (EL SICARIO). The same can be said for that other human community that lives on the margins of the ring road around Rome (SACRO GRA). So, in Lampedusa, I found myself understanding the workings, if I can call it that, of another set of concentric worlds, with their own rules and their own sense of time: the island, the detention center, the Cigala Fulgosi.


  • Golden Bear – 66th Berlin International Film Festival 2016
  • People's Choice Award 2016
  • EFA Documentary Selection 2016



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