'Fuocoammare' (Fire at Sea) wins Golden Bear for best film in Berlin

Sat Feb 20, 2016 3:21pm EST
 
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - Gianfranco Rosi's documentary film "Fuocoammare" (Fire at Sea), about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean off the Italian island of Lampedusa, won the Golden Bear prize for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.

It was a fitting end for a festival which went out of its way to make refugees welcome by giving them free tickets. Rosi paid tribute to those who risked their lives to escape war and poverty, and to the people of Lampedusa who welcomed them.

"Of course now at this moment my deeper thoughts go to all the people that never arrived to Lampudusa on these journeys of hope," Rosi said in his acceptance speech on stage at Berlin's cinema palace for the glittering awards ceremony.

Rosi, who won the top prize for another documentary in Venice in 2013, in this film shows daily life on the small island, mostly through the eyes of a young boy named Samuele who makes slingshots to shoot at birds and cactuses.

In the sea nearby, the Italian navy searches for overloaded boats full of refugees dying of suffocation and asphyxiation by diesel fumes and brings survivors back to Lampedusa for treatment and for transport to refugee centers.

"I want to dedicate this award to the people of Lampedusa who were always extremely open to accept people arriving there," Rosi said.

He noted that the flood of refugees that has made headlines recently began some 30 years ago for the island just off the coast of North Africa.

Rosi said he had asked Dr. Pietro Bartolo, a physician on Lampedusa who treats refugees and appears in the film, why the island welcomes the tens of thousands of people who land there.   Continued...

 
Director Gianfranco Rosi receives the Golden Bear - Best Film award for the movie 'Fuocoammare' (Fire at Sea) during the awards ceremony at the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 20, 2016.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch