Matteo Garrone presented his film Io CaptainItaly’s contender for the Oscar for best international feature film in 2024, on November 15, in front of a packed cinema full of European parliamentarians and visitors for an event entitled “Europe seen by others.”
The refugee drama, about two Senegalese men who travel through Africa and the Mediterranean to reach Europe, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where star Seydou Sarr won the Silver Lion for best young actor. Garrone and his Io Captain Co-writers Fofana Amara and Mamadou Kouassi – whose real-life trials formed the basis for the film’s story – attended the parliamentary screening. The 600 spectators gave the film a long ovation after the screening.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were impressed and some took to social media to praise the film and its message. “[Io Capitano is] “An enormously important and powerful work that should be shown in all schools across the continent,” Spanish MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa posted on X shortly after the event.
After the screening, Garrone said his goal with the film was to provide “a reverse take” on the usual Eurocentric narrative of the migration crisis. “We are used to our perspective [looking] from Europe to Africa; I wanted to tell the journey from a different perspective [the African] “We are turning the camera from Africa to Europe,” he said. “We tried to give the audience the opportunity to relive the experience of this odyssey. This film is a document of contemporary history and I believe it touches the conscience.”
The issue of illegal migration is one of the most politically explosive issues in Europe today. There is a heated debate in the EU Parliament over whether member states should accept more migrants or pay coastal states in Africa to prevent people from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
“I’m not interested in the political debate,” Garrone noted, pointing to the more fundamental principle of protecting human life. “It is always right to save lives at sea [it’s] a fundamental, universal principle.”
In a statement, Amara and Kouassi made their position clear. “The suffering reaching Europe is immense,” they said. “The only way to avoid this is to have safe entry channels without giving more money to Libya and Tunisia, who trample on human rights.”
Only a handful of films are granted screening in the EU Parliament, with most being screened as part of the Lux Audience Award, a prize presented annually by the EU Commission and the European Film Academy in collaboration with cinema operator group Europa Cinemas and its The aim is to increase the number of films awareness of social, political and cultural issues in Europe.
The Io Captain However, the screening was the direct initiative of European parliamentarians, including Italian MEPs Pietro Bartolo, Massimiliano Smeriglio and Brando Benifei. The screening was sold out, with around 400 guests remaining in the overcrowded hall.
Viewer of Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated documentary Fire at sea (2016) remembers Bartolo as the emergency doctor who worked on the Italian island of Lampedusa, providing first aid to migrants who landed there after traveling across the sea. After 25 years as a doctor, Bartolo was elected to the EU Parliament in 2019. At the screening he called Io Captain a “masterpiece” that finally “shows the phenomenon of migration from the migrants’ perspective, not from ours.”
Io Captain is also a contender for next month’s European Film Awards, where it has received nominations for best film and best director. The film has sold worldwide but is still looking for a U.S. distributor. Io Captain was produced by Archimede with Rai Cinema and Tarantula in collaboration with Pathé and Logical Content Ventures as an Italian-Belgian co-production.