Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Simshar [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CinEuropa.org listing

CinEuropa.org (S. Kues) review
Malta Today (T. Reljic) review

Huffington Post (D. Kmiec) review
Cinephilia.net.au (S. Hurst) review
The Austrialian (D. Stratton) review

Simshar [2014] [IMDb]] [CEu] (directed and cowritten by Rebecca Cremona [IMDb] [CEu] along with David Grech [IMDb] [CEu]) is a MALTESE DRAMA that played at the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.  About an actual tragedy involving a random and very typical Maltese fishing family, it also plays-out in the context of the current refugee drama in which tens of thousands of migrants are fleeing North Africa often in quite poor / leaky boats for Europe.

This film became Malta's first ever submission to the (87th) Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and is available in U.S. for streaming at a reasonable price on Amazon Instant Video.

To the story ...

On July 7, 2008, Simon Bugeda (played in the film by Lotfi Abdelli [IMDb] [CEu] left Malta with his quite typical if not entirely "up to code" fishing vessel, to do what he did for a living ... catch fish, notably tuna.  Aboard were his father Karmenu (played by Jimi Busuttil [IMDb] [CEu], his 11 year old son Theo (played by Adrian Farrugia [IMDb]) as well as Somali migrant (played by Sékouba Doucouré [IMDb] [CEu]).  

Typical of the "less than completely above board" nature of small-time commercial fishing, they took the boat apparently as far as Libyan waters.  Was that unusual?  One gets the sense, not particularly.  But it did cause them problems: When their "not completely up to code" small-time commercial fishing boat came to have a fire and then gasoline explosion on board, they weren't necessarily where the Maltese coast guard would first be looking for them.

Readers note here that part of the story of a somewhat similar tragedy, that of the Andrea Gale, remembered in the book / film The Perfect Storm [2000][IMDb] [GR] was that in that case that the crew took their Gloucester, MA commercial fishing vessel _far past_ their usual fishing grounds - at the Grand Banks to the Flemish Cap  - which proved to be a tragic decision as they found themselves in the midst of one of the worst storms in North Atlantic History on their way home, and also quite far from the (in their case) North American shore.

Back to the current story here ...  As the little if supremely poignant family tragedy played-out, a larger continuing tragedy continued as well, that of the North African Migrants fleeing North Africa for Europe, which are shown to occupy the attention (and frustrations) of both the Maltese and Italian Coast Guards.   And it becomes clear that though the surviving members of the Simshar were spotted by other (Libyan) fishing boats as they drifted, holding on to debris, from the Simshar's wreck ... THEY WERE NOT RESCUED BY THEM because they were taken to be "simply" North African refugees ... and presumably those fishermen thought that if they "stopped to rescue every North African refugee in such distress" they would not have time to do their living.  After all, they were "fishermen" not "the coast guard."

Sigh ... the result became what one would imagine.  It all becomes one _sad_ / conscience raising tale ... And one which would certainly be appreciated by the communities in the United States (and all around the world) which also make their lives by fishing.

A quite excellent film!

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