It Will Be Chaos


Some journeys are more desperate than others.

(2018) Documentary (HBO) William L. Ewing, Manuel Barosa, Aregai Mehari, Giusi Nicolini, Cecilia Malmstrom, Enrico Letta, Cecile Kyenge, Wael Orfali, Bensalem Khaled, Domenico Lucano, Domenica Colapinto, Rafaelle Colapinto, Doha Orfali, Ribal Orfali, Leen Tayem, Baoul Tayem, Othman Tayem, Giovanni Costanzo, Biniam Bereked. Directed by Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo

 

The movie opens up with the grim image of coffins being offloaded onto the Italian island of Lamperdusa. A ship carrying immigrants from Libya to Italy had capsized, and 360 refugees mostly from the Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia had drowned. One of the survivors, an ex-soldier from Eritrea named Aregai Mehari, lost two cousins in the tragedy. He shows their pictures on his cell phone, and at the trial of the inept captain calmly discusses the chaos of that night.

The mayor of Lamperdusa, Giusi Nicolini, is in a horrible position. The town is suffering from a stagnant economy and simply can’t handle the influx of people coming from Africa and the Middle East. She still manages to retain her compassion, correcting reporters “They are not illegal immigrants. They are refugees. Words matter.” She wants to help but is essentially powerless to do much more than providing limited assistance and sympathy.

We follow Aregai as he makes his way into Greece where the situation isn’t much better and might be, frankly, worse as he flees from drought and intense poverty in his native country. We also follow Wael Orfali and his young family as they flee the Syrian genocide, whose home was bombed into rubble just two weeks after they fled. He is stuck in Istanbul trying to get to family in Germany where he and his family might begin again. He is impatient almost to the point of hysteria, purchasing life jackets for his family  for a trip with a smuggler that may or may not happen and when relatives urge him to delay his departure because of rough weather in the Mediterranean bellows “I don’t care if we die. I just need to leave!”

The movie is one in a long line of documentaries about the current refugee crisis which is buffeting Europe and to an extent the United States as well. Most of these movies follow the travails of a specific refugee as they navigate an often frustrating and dehumanizing system that essentially passes them from one place to another with limited resources, no way to get work and left to dangle in the wind. Often the refugees, fleeing forces beyond their control, I can understand the anti-immigrant side to a certain extent; a nation can only support so many people with resources, jobs and property. There is a finite amount of money, goods and infrastructure to go around. However, the answer is not to demonize refugees and suspect that every refugee is a potential terrorist, rapist or criminal; most refugees simply want a better life and safety for their children. We can’t assume every refugee is legitimate; we also can’t assume that every refugee is not.

The problem I have with this movie is that it really doesn’t add anything to the conversation that I haven’t seen in several other documentaries. The points that they make that the bureaucracy handling the staggering influx of people is ill-equipped to handle it, that politicians are often unsympathetic and that refugees often face outright racism and are painted as scapegoats by an increasingly hostile European (and American) population.

Political bloviating on my part aside, the refugee crisis isn’t going away anytime soon and the situation isn’t as uncomplicated as it is sometimes made out to be. The movie exposes some of that if in a somewhat choppy manner. From a purely technical aspect, the editing between the two stories often is jarring and feels somewhat arbitrary. The filmmakers have their heart in the right place but in all honesty what we need more than a film that follows the refugees is one that shows us why it is so difficult for this situation to be managed. This movie shows some of that (and it’s generally the best moments in the film) but not enough to really make it a must-see.

REASONS TO GO: The story is heartbreaking.
REASONS TO STAY: The film doesn’t really add anything to the examination of the refugee crisis.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some disturbing images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film made its world premiere at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival before debuting on HBO.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Go
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/5/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fire at Sea
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Before I Wake

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Pick of the Litter – September 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

The Nun

(New Line) Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Bonnie Aarons, Jonny Coyne. The second spin-off film from the Conjuring film universe focuses on a demonic nun who has appeared in the visions of Lorraine Warren – played by Vera Farmiga, the older sister of Taissa. In this period piece, a young novitiate about to take her final vows and a priest with a troubled past are sent to a Romanian convent to investigate the suicide of a nun there. They find a terrifying apparition who heralds a desperate battle between the living and the damned with the fate of their souls on the line. Could be another winner for the series.  September 7

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Hal

(Oscilloscope) Hal Ashby, Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges. Hal Ashby directed some of the most seminal films of the 70s including Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Being There, Coming Home, Shampoo and Bound for Glory. Despite a resume of that caliber he remains largely unsung today, his later career being marked by drug use and a reputation for being difficult to work with. Still, many contemporary directors are influenced by his passion and his eye for a great story. September 7

Life in the Doghouse

(FilmRise) Ron Davis. Danny and Ron’s Dog Rescue is a unique operation. They are contacted regularly by animal shelters to take dogs that are on the euthanasia list and bring the animals into their home. Since beginning their business, they’ve rescued over 10,000 dogs, many of them who are basically unadoptable. Their pledge is that these animals will never see the inside of a shelter again, and if nobody adopts them, they’ll live their lives out with Danny and Ron. September 12

The Children’s Act

(A24) Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Finn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin. A judge whose marriage is crumbling is assigned a particularly difficult case in which a young teen with leukemia refuses blood transfusions that he needs to survive because of his faith. The judge must determine whether the teen is being unduly influenced by his parents who are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses or that the boy has arrived at his stand on his own. The two will find inspiration in one another as time ticks down on the seriously ill young man. September 14

Lizzie

(Roadside Attractions/Saban) Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw. The story of Lizzie Borden is a familiar one; in 1892, her mother and father were brutally murdered with an axe. Lizzie was accused of the heinous crime but was never convicted. This is a reimagining of the notorious case which remains unsolved more than 125 years later. September 14

Love, Gilda

(Magnolia/CNN) Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader. She was one of the most beloved comedians of her time. She was also the first person selected for the original Saturday Night Live cast. In this intimate documentary, we hear her thoughts and her life in her own words through tape recordings made during her illness and in journal entries throughout her life. September 21

 Tea With the Dames

(Sundance Selects) Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Eileen Atkins. Four of the greatest actresses of the 21st century (and the 20th) get together for a spot of tea and a bit of idle gossip. The results are hilarious, heartwarming and vivacious. September 21

The Old Man and the Gun

(Fox Searchlight) Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover. This is the story of Forrest Tucker, an enigmatic bank robber who at 70 years old  escapes from San Quentin and embarks on a series of daring heists that frustrate law enforcement authorities and captivate the public. Redford has stated that this will be his final acting role. September 28

Bad Reputation

(Magnolia) Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Iggy Pop, Pete Townshend. Joan Jett has gone from an upstart who dared to play rock and roll as a woman to an icon who has inspired generations of female rockers. This is her story from her time in the Runaways to her battles with the powers that be to her acceptance as one of the most influential figures in the annals of rock and roll. September 28

Monsters and Men

(Neon) Anthony Ramos, John David Washington, Rob Morgan, Chanté Adams. A young man with a future films an unjustified police shooting of an unarmed man in front of a Brooklyn bodega. He is faced with the choice of posting the video and potentially jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve, or keep it hidden and in doing so becoming complicit in the cover-up. September 28