This rich, observational, ripped-from-the-headlines story about the plight of fruit-pickers in southern Italy demands a wide audience

Rarely has the phrase “ripped from the headlines” seemed so literal. As the lights went down before the world premiere of Mediterranea in the Cannes’ Critics’ Week sidebar, I folded away that day’s paper, the front page of which detailed the EU’s latest strategy for handling the African immigration surge. When we first meet our lead characters, Ayiva and Abas, they are in Algeria, having left Burkina Faso, trying, with bands of others, to get to the Libyan shore by foot so that they can catch a boat to Italy. If a movie as rich and understanding as Mediterranea suddenly appeared every time we read about a difficult issue in the paper, maybe all of the world’s problems could be solved.

We don’t learn much about Ayiva and Abas at first, other than that they are young men with a contact somewhere on the other side of the sea. Abas is excited by those photos of European girls that his friend posts on Facebook. Ayiva seems more concerned with earning money. As their caravan grows, so do the points of origin and number of languages. After a death-defying sea crossing involving Arab bandits and storms, they are picked up by immigration in southern Italy. Given three months to find some sort of contracted work before applying for documented status, they make their way to a cold, wet tent community and strategise.

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