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'Mediterranea' glosses over context of 2010 race riot in Italy

'Mediterranea' glosses over context of 2010 race riot in Italy
Alassane Sy and Koudous Seihon in the movie "Mediterranea," directed by Jonas Carpignano. (Jonas Carpignano)

Emblematic of Europe's current immigration crisis, "Mediterranea" dramatizes the 2010 race riot in Rosarno, Italy, that concluded with authorities shipping out more than a thousand African immigrants.

Having survived a particularly arduous and pernicious journey via Algeria and Syria, Burkinabé friends Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) and Abas (Alassane Sy) reach Rosarno, where Ayiva's uncle Ousman (Ousman Yabre) has established himself. But inexplicably he doesn't take them in, so they must squat in a squalid encampment. Immediately, they land jobs picking fruit in the orange groves.

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Things escalate so quickly from there that the culminating riot seems unwarranted. Writer-director Jonas Carpignano glosses over much of the sociopolitical context in his depictions of the chain of events, such as the region's poverty, it being an organized-crime stronghold and the demand for migrants to perform menial labor generally regarded as beneath the locals. He barely even acknowledges their exploitation and their deplorable working conditions.

The filmmaker makes a universal appeal with the migrants' employer, Rocco (Davide Schipilliti), relating his own grandfather's migration to America to Ayiva's plight. But Carpignano can seem oblivious too, as with a cringe-worthy scene in which Rocco's spoiled child, Marta (Vincenzina Siciliano), repeatedly dumps a crate of oranges on purpose for Ayiva to pick up. Instead of feeling humiliated, Ayiva finds her adorable.

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'Mediterranea'

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.

Playing: At Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.

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