Mediterranea DVD Review

     Actors: Koudous Seihon, Alassane Sy
  • Director: Jonas Carpignano
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Arabic, English, French, Italian
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 110 minutes



            Director Jonas Carpignano’s stylistic approach to Mediterranea often feels akin to a documentary, limiting the musical score’s encroachment on the narrative and enough shaky handheld camera work to help the audience feel each jarring moment with an enhanced level of discomfort. And it is a subject which both the truthful depiction and uncomfortable realism, one which remains narrow in its character depiction while simultaneously telling a story with universally wide relevance. The African immigrants depicted in Mediterranea could very easily be any number of other immigrants across the globe, and that is why it is important to also anchor the realistic narrative with a character to empathize with.


            The film follows the journey of two men from Burkina Faso through Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, but the focus wisely remains on Ayiva (Koudous Seihon). Although Abas (Alassane Sy) has a completely different personality and reaction to their new life as immigrants in Italy and would have provided a contrasting perspective for the narrative, the film is more successful in creating a sense of empathy by allowing us to focus on Ayiva. This focus also permits a more complexly developed character, as a mixed bag of good and bad qualities.


            The first portion of the narrative is something of a survival story, many lost along the journey to those merely profiting off of the desperation and vulnerability of the immigrants. They cross desert and ocean, taken advantage of by many along the way. Some are thieves in a more direct manner, while others just cheat the immigrants with bad deals and broken promises. And very little of this seems to change once they have finally reached their destination in the Italian city of Rosarno. Even when Ayiva and Abas are able to find work, the hours are long and the pay is too little to promise any upward mobility. They are also facing a deadline in which they must find a job with a contract or be deported, as well as the endless animosity from locals (leading to a sequence inspired by the riots in 2010).


            Abas sees the bleakness of their situation almost immediately, developing a resentful attitude while Ayiva simply hustles to make the best of their situation. Along the journey he sells shoes to others making the trek, and in Italy he resorts to stealing until they are able to find honest work. He is a model employee, though his boss is more sympathetic than helpful when Ayiva finally attempts to cash in on his excellent work ethics by asking for a favor. But the real heartbreak in Ayiva’s character comes from a single scene he has talking to his daughter over webcam, finally brought down by the weight of his experiences, triggered by a Rihanna song. Seihon’s performance is never showy in any way and is far more effective in its emotional moments because of this restraint, earning him a much-deserved nomination at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards.


            The DVD includes a trailer.  


    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance:  7/10

    Special Features: 1/10

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