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Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) 2016 - Gianfranco Rosi

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

In one of our most recent posts, Krysia and I started a new series: RefuNet Recommends. As social media managers, we decided that we wanted to produce a series that would draw attention to various pieces of popular culture that highlight the issues and dangers faced by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from across the globe.

As stated by John Street (1997), popular culture is an integral part of our politics and how we come to understand the world around us, therefore embracing and engaging with such media is integral in identity production as well as deconstruction. By this, we mean rejecting grand narratives that may have been produced in the mainstream media and recognising what documentaries and films from alternative perspectives can add to the discussion.

Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) is one such docu-film that delves into the Italian island of Lampedusa. This tiny island may be on the periphery of Europe, but it is at the very centre of media attention regarding the arrival of people to its shores and one of the many locations where the narrative of the ‘Migrant Crisis’ is proliferated. Since the early 1990s, there has been a huge increase in arrivals of non-EU individuals that have sought shelter from persecution and violence from Africa and the Middle East. This has contributed to its increased securitisation by the Italian State (Dines et. Al., 2015), with the establishment of large detention facilities on the island.

This docu-film provides the viewer with a unique opportunity to delve into both the world of the Lampedusan islander, and a glimpse inside the detention facilities on the island where individuals are placed. This dual perspective is key to seeing or, better yet, unveiling that which is traditionally hidden from view. By engaging in this dual narrative, it is possible to see the disconnect between islanders and those arriving to the island. More so, it encourages you as the viewer to engage in self-reflection on the themes, events, and realities of people, which you may never have seen before due to separate narratives working in the media. There seems to be a parallel narrative going on in Lampedusa, one that attempts to avoid disrupting everyday life, by hiding individuals from view.

Viewer discretion is advised due to some of the images containing the extremely distressing realities of those seeking sanctuary in Europe. Some critics have said it presents a certain voyeurism due to its unapologetic documenting of these events (Zagarrio, 2017). Decide whether you believe it is necessary to see this reality before watching this docu-film.

As a viewer, you are invited to see an alternative reality to the largely negative dialogues presented in the media. We believe this is a must-watch for anyone. Therefore, RefuNet Recommends you watch this docu-film.


Dines N., Montagna, N., & Ruggiero, V. (2015). ‘Thinking Lampedusa: Border Construction, the Spectacle of Bare life and the Productivity of Migrants,’ Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(3), pp. 430-445.

Street, J. (1997). Politics & Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Zagarrio, Vito (2017), ‘‘’A History of Violence’’: Violenza, Resistenza, Tolleranza, Sacrificio nel Cinema Italiano,’ Annali D’Italianistica, 35: 403-420.

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