“I captain” and universal freedom. Garrone applauded at Venice 80 and on the verge of being nominated for an Oscar


By John

There is Mamadou Kouassi from the Ivory Coast, he is a grown man, 15 years ago he undertook the journey from his country, crossing the sub-Saharan desert in Niger, arriving in Libya, suffering torture and then embarking at sea. He now lives in Caserta and has helped Matteo Garrone to make it even more true “I captain”the film in theaters today with 01 on 203 screens and yesterday applauded in competition at Venice 80 and which could very probably be the Italian candidate for the Oscars.

And then there are Seydou Sarr and Moustapha Fall, the two Senegalese protagonists, actors by chance, wonderful faces with the desire for Europe in their eyes and the first autographs to sign. And there would also have been Fofana Amara, the real captain who at 15 years old found himself driving a boat of 250 migrants like him without ever having sailed one and actually shouted “I am captain”: he now lives in Belgium, married to a woman he met in reception center in Catania, they have children but not yet a residence permit and for this reason he was unable to arrive in Venice despite having inspired the story and collaborated on the film.

“Io Capitano” is an updated Pinocchio, a mix with Gomorrah (the director says this quoting two of his films) and it is also «a contemporary odyssey, in which the two boys are a symbol of their globalized generation, part of a migration that is not only that of escaping wars and climate catastrophes. 70% of Africans are young – explains Garrone – and have the legitimate desire to improve their lives, to be free to move around. It’s a matter of justice: why are their European peers allowed to go on holiday to Senegal by plane and they, on the other hand, have to face a journey of hope without knowing if they will arrive alive?”.

Garrone specifically chose Senegal and as protagonists two poor minors with dignity who have the internet and want to go to Europe to feel better, work, send money home, become footballers and rappers. “It takes courage to make that journey and I myself – says Mamadou – was tempted to go back but then I decided to risk it”. His story inspired Garrone as well as that of the young captain and to add truth to the two leading actors «who had never left Senegal» he never gave the script, «every day they came to the set and it was a discovery, as if they lived the adventure told in the film, with moments of joy and those of desperation”, says the director who filmed in Casablanca, Dakar and in the sea in front of Marsala.

What do these Africans hope for? «May the Europeans understand us, understand our desire for freedom which is universal, the same as that of western kids. And that there are safe entry channels, that Europe does not give money to countries like Libya and Tunisia that trample on human rights. And also for viewers to see our suffering. Today – they say – it is a great emotion.”
. Does the film stop before the arrival and after? «I don’t know if I intend to tell it but I won’t go into the political merits, as a director I tell a story on the ethical and universal level of injustice».