The quayside at Lampedusa has featured many times on this blog, often as journey's end for migrants who have survived the dangerous Mediterranean crossing but also sometimes as a scene of tragedy as the bodies of others are brought ashore. I have also often written about the incredible forbearance and kindess of the islanders towards the strangers they have found in their midst.
Today, however, the island's airport saw an arrival of a different kind - that of a little golden bear being clutched by a familiar figure to inhabitants, namely Dr Pietro Bartolo from their own ER department.
"Questa è la sua terra - This is his land", said Dr Bartolo, laying the little bear on the ground. This was the Golden Bear awarded to Gianfranco Rosi [Sacro GRA] at the Berlin International Film Festival for his documentary Fuocoammare which he filmed over eighteen months whilst living on Lampedusa. The film shows a migrant boat trying to reach Lampedusa and also focuses on the daily life of the islanders. Dr Bartolo, caring for both the influx of migrants and the island's inhabitants, is a key figure in the film.
Meryl Streep, who chaired the Film Festival jury, said of the film,
"In a year of thrillingly diverse films, the jury was swept away by the compassionate outrage of one in particular. It’s a daring hybrid of captured footage and deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do. It demands its place in front of our eyes, compels our engagement and action. It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking.”
Dr. Bartolo said that he hoped the film would cause people all over the world to think about the suffering of migrants and that those in a position to help but who have been pretending not to hear of their plight would also stop and reflect.
Gianfranco Rosi has dedicated the award to "the wonderful and generous people of Lampedusa."
The first video is via La Repubblica: