Renowned Italian director Matteo Garrone debuted his powerful refugee drama film, “Io Capitano,” in a packed theater filled with European parliamentarians and attendees on November 15. The event, titled “Europe Seen by Others,” presented Italy’s contender for the 2024 Best International Feature Oscar, showcasing a film that has made a significant impact on audiences and critics alike.
The plot of “Io Capitano” follows the journey of two Senegalese men as they travel across Africa and the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the film earned Seydou Sarr the Silver Lion award for best young actor. Both Garrone and the co-writers of “Io Capitano,” Fofana Amara and Mamadou Kouassi, based the story on their real-life experiences, which added a layer of authenticity to the film.
Following the parliamentary screening, the film received a long-standing ovation from the 600 spectators in attendance. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were deeply moved by the film’s message, with some taking to social media to express their admiration for it. Spanish MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa described “Io Capitano” as a “tremendously important and powerful work that should be screened in all schools across the continent,” echoing the sentiments of other MEPs who were equally impressed.
Garrone’s objective with “Io Capitano” was to provide a perspective of the migration crisis that delivers a different angle than the usual portrayal from a Euro-centric narrative. By focusing on the journey from an African point of view and pointing the camera towards Europe, the film aims to shed light on the struggles faced by migrants and provide the audience with the chance to experience their odyssey. Garrone emphasized that the film serves as a document of contemporary history and encourages introspection in its viewers.
The issue of illegal migration is a highly sensitive and politically charged topic in Europe, with debates within the EU Parliament centering on whether member countries should accept more migrants or pay coastal nations in Africa to prevent further migration across the Mediterranean. Garrone, however, emphasized the universal principle of protecting human life, stating that saving lives at sea is a fundamental moral duty that transcends political debates.
The co-writers of “Io Capitano,” Amara and Kouassi, emphasized the immense suffering endured by migrants on their journey to Europe and called for safe entry channels to be established, without resorting to methods that violate human rights in countries like Libya and Tunisia.
The screening of “Io Capitano” at the European Parliament was a significant event, as only a handful of films are afforded this honor. Typically, films showcased at the Parliament are connected to the Lux Audience Award, which raises awareness of social, political, and cultural issues in Europe. However, the direct initiative of European parliamentarians, including Italian MEPs Pietro Bartolo, Massimiliano Smeriglio, and Brando Benifei, facilitated the screening of “Io Capitano,” drawing a sold-out crowd and leaving hundreds of guests outside the packed hall.
The acclaim for “Io Capitano” is also reflected in its nomination for various awards, including Best Film and Best Director at the upcoming European Film Awards. Despite being sold worldwide, the film is still searching for a distributor in the United States. Produced by Archimede with Rai Cinema and Tarantula in collaboration with Pathé and Logical Content Ventures as an Italian-Belgian co-production, “Io Capitano” continues to make an impact globally.