PN 28: Gianfranco Rosi on “Fire at Sea”
Winner of the Berlin Film Festival’s top jury prize in 2016, “Fire at Sea” takes place on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Located near the African coast, Lampedusa is a prime destination for refugees traveling by boat. Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi spent months filming with residents of the island and on board an Italian Navy ship rescuing migrants at sea. Praising the film in The New York Times, critic A.O. Scott wrote that “it compels you to infer a big picture from a series of extended, intimate scenes.”
In 2013, Rosi’s previous film “Sacro GRA,” set in Rome, became the first documentary to ever win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Despite his European laurels, Rosi’s earlier films were scarcely seen in North America. They include “Boatman” (1993), filmed in Benares, India; “Below Sea Level” (2008), about drifters in the American desert; and “El Sicario – Room 164” (2010) about a hitman in Juarez, Mexico.
In this interview with Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers, Rosi talks about the making of “Fire at Sea” as well as his student days at New York University, his early projects and his friendship with the writer Charles Bowden.