de facto film reviews 3 stars

Io Capitano marks a significant comeback for a well-known Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Tale of Tales, Dogman). The harrowing feature takes viewers into a visceral world of migrant struggles that many privileged people simplistically vilify, but the film brings an understanding with great empathy. The film reminds us of how many African migrants risk their lives making the treacherous journeys through the Saraha deserts and eventually across the Mediterranean Sea to get to the shores of Europe. Both wrenching and mythological, Io Capitano may be distressing, but it is a rewarding, quintessential film about the migrant experience. After premiering for the Golden Lion at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, where Garrone won the Silver Lion Award for Best Director, and the Marcello Mastroianni Best Actor Award went to Seydou Sarr’s naturalistic. performance. Since then, the film has just been nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards, where The Zone of Interest will be the inevitable winner.

The film’s approach and style resemble Cory Fukunaga’s commanding directing with the 2009 international drama Sin Nombre. The camera transports you vividly with its realism, and the result is emotionally stirring. There are an endless number of migrant stories that can be told about the struggles of wanting to get to live in a more prosperous country, but until nations can embrace free societies with open democracies that embrace freedom, justice, entrepreneurship, peace, and prosperity, we will always have a migrant crisis. Sadly, a lot of establishment media and people with xenophobic beliefs like to dismiss migrants and refugees as “free-loading lawbreakers,” but if one digs enough research, one will find that many nations have broken immigration policies, and many migrants endure tragic hardships and even violent experiences to get better opportunities. Like God & Country, The Zone of Interest, and Killers of the Flower Moon, Io Capitano is just as potent and every bit as essential in showcasing the brutal truths of human nature—both past and present.

IO CAPITANO -Cohen Media Group

Courtesy Cohen Media Group

What makes Lo Capitano vastly different from other films about the immigrant experience is that we see our protagonists not so much runaway from danger as they approach more of it. Sure, they leave in search of prosperity and more economic opportunity, but the deception and hardships on the horizon become far more threatening than they can imagine. The story centers on Seydou (Sarr), a Senegalese teenager who lives in the city of Dakar with his mother (Ndeye Khady Sy). They are crammed in condensed neighborhood in a neighborhood that is very impoverished with very little economic growth or opportunity. The town isn’t under tyranny or a war zone, and the citizens often have fun with their own makeshift spectacles of dancing, music, and drums. It doesn’t seem like the kind of place to flee from, but Lo Capitano, at its core, is a story about the yearning of wanting more prosperity.

Seydou and his cousin Moussa (Moustapha Fall) do daily labor jobs and save up money in hopes of getting to Europe soon. They could be called dreamers as they idealize about their future, listen to music, and long for wealth in Europe. They often talk about the number of people who died crossing the sea. Seydou almost holds confidence in thinking that if he goes, he will be invincible to any adversity or challenge that could arise. Of course, their gullibility is tested to its limits once they save up enough money and take a bus out to the desert. They find out they have to walk miles in the desert after being overcharged by a fake passport supplier (Joe Lassana).

As they walk through the scorching, hot desert, a woman (Beatrice Gnonko) collapses and dies from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Seydou attempts to save her, but Moussa warns they will be abandoned if they don’t keep up with the fellow group of migrants. Seydou ends up having dreamlike hallucinations of the woman coming back to life and floating in the air to where they want to go. The dreamlike imagery of the woman floating with her green garments in the ravishing desert is quite elliptical and is quite different from the events that unfold in a brutal Libyan prison where people are imprisoned, tortured, and held for ransom in order to pay even larger sums of money.


Courtesy Cohen Media Group

Once the third act arises and Seydou is freed from the prison, it feels quite liberating to get away from that brutal reality. It’s also the part of the film where the compassion feels the most encouraging. The film continues Seydou’s journey, and he is tested once he is given the great responsibility of holding a large responsibility given by fixer Ahmed (Doodou Sagna) to drive the boat to Sicily with a band of migrants that hold families with toddlers. His own dreams of making it to Italy end up becoming something greater than himself. This segment of the film shimmers with the most hope and holds the most emotional impact. It’s also quite spellbinding. Even when the film feels anemic at times, the film distinguishes itself as it becomes a raw narrative that also unravels like a sweeping parable.

Io Capitano opens in limited  theaters Friday, February 23rd.  It will open in Okemos Studio C and The Celebration North in Grand Rapids, MI on Friday, March 8th.