“Fire At Sea” Sparks Discussion of Global Issues


The Global Film Series returned last Wednesday with the Italian documentary film “Fire At Sea.” The film follows this semester’s theme of highlighting issues in the world today.

Professor Jenna Sciuto introduced the film and gave background for the issues the film focused on. These included the dangers migrants face crossing the Mediterranean Sea to safety, set against a background of normal life on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

The documentary was followed by a discussion in which audience members brought up questions, analyses of the film and what message the film held for them personally as well as for our society.

“Fire At Sea” begins with a silent scene of a young boy climbing a tree and cutting branches. This changes to a sense of urgency as the scene cuts to that of a distress call – 250 people need rescue.

The film follows this back and forth pattern of following the lives of a family on Lampedusa who uses the sea as a way of life, and of migrants from countries like Syria, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast as they endure emotional and physical suffering while trying to reach freedom.

Most of the documentary is silent, with no music being used. This makes some very powerful moments stand out.

Close ups on the faces of those being rescued told entire stories.

In another instance, one man told of fleeing Nigeria, going through the Sahara, escaping Libyan prison, and making it to the sea, only to have many people die on the way to safety.

In speaking about this migration, the man said “It is risky in life not to take a risk, because life is a risk.”

Another moving moment came with the doctor examining a pregnant woman after the trauma she suffered on the ship, as well as his statement that it is everyone’s responsibility to take care of these people, despite the depression and emotional pain that goes along with the job.

The documentary contrasted the two worlds by highlighting the major problems of the migrants, arriving dehydrated with chemical burns, with the minor problems of the boy and his family, such as his visits to the doctor and his seasickness.

Michael Obasohan helped to facilitate the questions and comments after the film.

Senior Falyn Elhard spoke to the infrequency we hear about such incidents, as well as the volume of refugees the tiny island brings in.

“We are huge and we aren’t nearly as welcoming,” said Elhard. “It really speaks to the different views on the two sides of the Atlantic.”

The words the doctor spoke were brought up in the discussion, with Obasohan pointing to our country’s actions.

“We are kicking them out when we are supposed to be a powerful nation,” said Obasohan.

Senior Erica Barreto brought up another point regarding how we receive our news.

“If you want to be aware, you discover information. But not everyone wants to. There is the fear of the other,” Barreto said.

The discussion focused on other ideas as well, including the connections found between the boy’s family and the refugees.

Many audience members reflected on the idea that the sea was the tie between them – an obstacle for one and a job for the other.

There was also a connection made between the grandmother’s story of wartime at sea and the incidents that are currently going on. A disconnect exists in the boy’s mind between these stories of the past and current events.

Others commented on the symbolism of the sea being pure but also destructive, as well as the lack of narration setting the tone.

This documentary was not a feel good film and did not advertise itself as such, but it did leave its audience with a powerful message about what is happening in the world today, sparking conversation about what we can do and what has to be done in order to solve this.