Io capitano” (“I’m the Captain”)


Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), (6/10), (3/5)

Movies about the flood of new immigrants into Europe from Africa and the Middle East have been growing in number in recent years. Depictions of the many hardships these individuals face (sometimes graphic and disturbing in nature) have been making their way into the cinematic community, showing exactly what these desperate freedom seekers are up against. And this latest offering in this genre does just that in telling the story of two Senegalese teens as they make the perilous attempt to find their way to a new life in Italy. Writer-director Matteo Garrone tells the harrowing tale of cousins Seydou (Seydou Sarr) and Moussa (Moustapha Fall) as they wrestle with the challenges of the environment, unrepentant scammers, forced detention and torture by authorities and criminals, and the harsh conditions of crossing the Mediterranean. However, while the film features fine performances, cinematography and location settings, it all seems a little too familiar, a tale with a hole-filled plot and a series of cliffhangers that seem to have all-too-convenient solutions to them. It’s also overlong, filled with a variety of sequences that could have been easily pared back without losing anything meaningful. Nevertheless, these shortcomings are countered, to a certain extent, by an intriguing mystical and surreal subtext, which is actually the picture’s strongest (though most woefully underdeveloped) aspect. In light of the foregoing, then, I must admit that I’m somewhat mystified how this release managed to secure so many accolades, including Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best international film, especially given how many other better offerings were available. “Io Capitano” is one of those movies that makes a good instructional picture for those who’d like to know more about the plight of this new wave of immigrants, but its hype seems a bit inflated in the face of previous releases on this subject and other foreign language offerings more deserving of the praise.