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Claus Mueller


Claus Mueller is filmfestivals.com  Senior New York Correspondent

New York City based Claus Mueller reviews film festivals and related issues and serves as a  senior editor for Society and Diplomatic Review.

As a professor emeritus he covered at Hunter College / CUNY social and media research and is an accredited member of the US State Department's Foreign Press Center.

 


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Io Capitano (I, the Captain), 2023 Italy, Matteo Garrone, Director / Writer


In 2008 Matteo Garrone directed the award-winning docudrama Gommorah portraying the fate of two teens aspiring to criminal success in a slum dominated by a crime syndicate. Garrone’s approach in Io Capitano was similar and appropriately compelling. It conveys the experience of young migrants entering Europe rather than conveying an outsider’s point of view. Garrone has stressed that “Every moment on the set I had people besides me who had actually lived through the experience of being tortured in Libya, or walked through the Sahara, so they could me tell their experience in detail”. In addition to other awards, Io Capitano received the top directing and acting awards at the 2024 Venice film festival and numerous other prizes and nominations. Seydou Sarr who received the acting award had no professional film experience before.


Garrone situates the story in the pervasive refugee crisis in the European Union which has been attracting a growing number of individuals from Africa and the Middle East trying to reach European countries each year. As noted by Garrone, the demographic African explosion is one of the factors prompting the escape from Africa. Europe attracted 266,000 individuals from Africa in 2023, an over 60% increase over the prior year. In sub-Saharan Africa, 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. There has been significant reporting about these desperate journeys to Europe, the loss of life crossing the desert, drowning in the Mediterranean, and those perishing in Libyan prisons. Many images migrants rescued from the Mediterranean waters are shown on the fronts of newspapers on a regular basis. But we learn little about the individual migrants and their families.

What is not often reported or mentioned by Garrone or featured in lo Capitono is the contribution of European and other countries to the abandonment of Africa. On Senegal’s West Coast few Senegalese still engage in commercial fishing because most fish have disappeared from their sea due to industrial overfishing by European, Chinese, and other countries. These foreign fishing vessels often have dubious permission obtained from local or federal Senegalese authorities. Young men and women are faced with few work opportunities in former coastal fishing villages and have little choice apart from the European option. Moreso, European Union agencies pay large amounts to the Libyan government to repatriate African and Arab migrants caught on their passage to Europe.


Focusing on two Dakar based teenage young cousins, Io Capitano accompanies them over thousands of miles with cameras always maintaining close personal contact. The journey covers Senegal, Niger, Mali, Libya, and the African Mediterranean coast until Italy becomes visible. No matter where the cinematography takes place, the human element of both cousins remain the compelling center of Io Capitano, family interactions; the mother and siblings in Dakar, blessing from a shaman and their ancestors for the trip, long travels on a bus and pick up truck for the migrants, long foot marches through the arid Sahara sand, imprisonment and torture in a Libyan jail, and  some recuperation through construction work.  
Both cousins observe the suffering of migrants and their despair, being robbed and beaten, yet Seydou retains his fighting spirit, and doesn’t lose his sense of humanity or succumb to the depravity of others surrounding him. There is a sense of optimism that Seydou radiates. He continues to believe that in Europe he will become a rockstar and holds to his conviction that he will bring his cousin to Italy for medical treatment.

Distributed in the US by The Cohen Media Group, Io Capitano opens on February 23 in New York.

Claus Mueller. 1 347 210 6759
filmexchange@gmail.com

 

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