A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Where “Black Lives Matter” has become a rallying cry in the U.S., Jonas Carpignano’s sharply crafted “Mediterranea” voices a counterpart for African immigrants in southern Italy: “Stop shooting blacks!” That chant emerges at the dramatic apex of the multi-nationally funded feature, which otherwise offers a deliberately muted, finely textured account of the ordeals many Africans endure both before and after voyages to Europe in search of better lives.
The film’s subject is, of course, incredibly timely. If recent media attention has focused on the waves of desperate migration from the Middle East, the flights from Africa depicted here are no less perilous and dramatically charged, resulting in Mediterranean drownings and occasional racial strife such as the 2010 riots in Rosarno, Italy, that drew writer-director Carpignano to the area in its wake.
With an African-American mother and an Italian father, Carpignano was well-positioned to examine the situation of Africans in Italy. He first turned his investigations into a short, “A Chjána,” which won him a Critics Week prize at Cannes and a place at the Sundance Lab, where he developed it into the current feature.
Carpignano has noted that the stories of migratory hardships in the media recently concern two types of migrants: those fleeing war or persecution, and those seeking better economic opportunities. The Africans he focuses on in “Mediterranea” belong to the latter group, which he compares to the mass immigration of southern Italians to the U.S. in the early 20th century. The root causes of the two movements may have been the same, but as he also notes, the earlier migration was better organized legally and logistically than the more chaotic exodus from Africa in this century.