On the Italian island of Lampedusa, twelve-year-old Samuele plays with his slingshot, struggles with English homework and visits a doctor for his poor eyesight. Meanwhile, thousands of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East attempt the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, many of them dying from dehydration or drowning. A local doctor treats the refugees with compassion and an increasing sense of despair.
Filmmaker Rosi spent months on this tiny island, documenting the local inhabitants and contrasting their slow, antiquated way of life with a very real and contemporary crisis. Shooting scenes of death and sickness from Italian naval rescue ships, the director simply captures what he sees without sermonizing, which only magnifies the human tragedy we witness. Rosi received an Oscar nomination for this searing work, and no wonder.