Jakob Brossmann’s portrait of an Italian island’s Sisyphean struggle with the international refugee crisis had its world premiere at Locarno last year. Since then it has screened at IDFA, Sydney, New Zealand, Stockholm, Watch Docs, BelDocs, DOXA, DocPoint, CPH:DOX, and Ischia, among other events.
Located on Europe’s outer edge, the small island of Lampedusa has long been the destination for African refugees seeking an escape from poverty, persecution, and conflict. In the face of the ongoing refugee crisis, residents have seen a constant stream of desperate people crossing the Mediterranean, often needing to be rescued by the Lampedusian coast guard – or, tragically, losing their lives at sea. Brossmann chronicles two winters on the island, painting a portrait of the community as it contends with its unenviable position at the center of the refugee crisis and the pressures this brings to bear on daily life. In this observational study, various figures emerge – the local radio station’s acerbic DJ, the town’s embattled mayor, a concerned woman who tries to help refugees stuck in processing limbo, museum curators who comb though the detritus of a refugee ship graveyard for items to display, and factions of fisherman who protest inadequate ferry services to the mainland. This is a quiet, but impactful, microcosmic look at the greatest humanitarian crisis of the present day, as experienced by those who have no choice but to respond.