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The Gianfranco Rosi Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 14, 2017 by  



Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi.  Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kino Lorber, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Gianfranco Rosi Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Fire at Sea (2016), Below Sea Level (1988), Boatman (1993), Sacro GRA (2013)

DURATION: Fire at Sea (113 Minutes), Below Sea Level (117 Minutes), Boatman (57 Minutes), Sacro GRA (91 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Fire at Sea (1:85:1, 5.1 Surround), Below Sea Level (1:85:1, 2.0 Stereo), Boatman (1:33:1, 2.0 Stereo), Sacro GRA (1:78:1, 2.0 Stereo)

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Fire at Sea

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Idea by Carla Cattani

Produced by Roberto Cicutto, Paolo Del Brocco, Camille Laemle, Serge Lalou, Donatella Palermo, Gianfranco Rosi, Martine Saada

Co-Producer: Remi Burah, Olivier Pere

Cinematography by Gianfranco Rosi

Edited by Jacopo Quadri

Blow Sea Level

Written by Gianfranco Rosi

Boatman

Written by Gianfranco Rosi


Fire at Sea

Samuele Pucillo, Pietro Bartolo, Samuele Caruana, Maria Costa, Maria Signorello, Mattias Cucina, Francesco Paterna, Giuseppe Fragapane, Francesco Mannino


Gianfranco Rosi has emerged as one of the most awarded and provocative documentarians working today. His observational films artfully and sympathetically depict the lives of subcultures and displaced peoples the world over. The Gianfranco Rosi Collection includes four of his greatest films. Fire at Sea (2016), an Academy Award® Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, is a heartwrenching portrait of African refugees pouring into the Italian island of Lampedusa. Sacro GRA (2013), winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, is an engaging tour of Rome s ring road, populated by a fascinating group of eccentrics. Rosi spent five years shooting Below Sea Level (2008), which documents the hand-to-mouth existence of California flatland squatters. And his first feature, Boatman (1993), captures life and death on the Ganges River in India.


One of the most prominent documentary filmmakers in Italy is Giafranco Rosi.  A man who not only directs, also is a camera operator, producer and screenwriter.

Rosi gained prominence when his 2013 documentary “Sacro GRA” won a Golden Lion at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and was the first documetnar film to win a Golden Lion in the history of the Venice Film Festival and the first Italian film to win at the festival in 15 years.

Rosi followed up with another award-winning documentary in 2016 titled “Fire at Sea”, which won a Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Rosi has created a total of six films since 1993 and now his four films: “Fire at Sea”, “Below Sea Level”, “Boatman” and “Sacro GRA” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The first film featured is Rosi’s most recent film “Fire at Sea” (2016) and is shot on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.  Shot during the European migrant crisis but also featuring the reality of many people who are refugees and those who risk their lives to travel through the Mediterranean Sea in hopes to get to Lampedusa and start a new life.

The film gives us perspectives of those living in Lampedusa.  A young boy named Samuele who belongs to generations of fisherman living in Lampedusa and gives us an innocent look at life on the island.  The film also shows us a perspective through the life of Dr. Bartolo, the doctor and director of the hospital at Lampedusa who is sensitive and wanting compassion towards refugees.  To not turn them away and lead them to their deaths but to let them, treat them and then discussion can begin.  But far too often the harsh reality is many who travel far to go to Lampedusa do not survive.

And we learn from the refugees of why many of them risk their lives to travel to Lampedusa.

For the 2008 film “Below Sea Level”, the film gives us a perspective of people who live their lives in Slab City, a desolate area in Imperial County, California where many RV owners and squatters from North America come to live permanently.  Some to stretch their retirement income, others to live off the grid and others to get away from society.

“Below Sea Level” was shot over a five-year period and documented the lives of a small group of homeless residents living in RV’s, buses or tents.

For Rosi’s first film “Boatman” (1993), the film is set in the River Ganges in India which stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.  The river is considered sacred and millions of Hindus cremate their dead.

It is believed by practicing Hindus that an unwed girl given a water burial will ensure she is born again into the family.  Also, due to poverty, to avoid the cost of cremation, many conduct water burials.

Also, many go into the river to cleanse themselves, believing that the river will cleanse them of sin and free them from the cycle of rebirth.

While the film interviews and showcases many who have come to the river to bury the dead including travelers who are in awe of what they are seeing, as boats run through the river with dead bodies floating up in the water.

The film focuses on a boatman whose job is to ferry people through the rivers and Rosi gives us a personal look at the life of the boatman, his job and the questions that he receives from foreigners so often.

And the final film is “Sacro GRA” (2013), the film features life for those who live along the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the ring-road highway that circles Rome.

Rosi spent two years filming and another eight months to edit and the film was inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel “Invisible Cities”, which is about Marco Polo as imagined describing his travels to the Emperor of China Kublai Khan.

The film showcases those who live near the highway such as EMS worker Roberto and taking care of his elderly mother.  Francesco is a scientist who catalogues palm trees that were ravaged by the red palm weevil.  Paolo and his daughter Amelia from northern Italy transferred to a new housing block.  Cesare is one of the last eel fisherman on the Tiber River who talks about the endangered traditions due to the GRA.  Filippo is a proprietor with a home with statues and an emporium of memorabilia that is rented out for movie sets and theater companies.  Also, to host parties and also is a B&B.  Also, life featuring prostitutes and go-go dancers at some of the neighborhoods.

No interactions with the camera, just the camera capturing the day and the life of the various people living near the GRA.


VIDEO:

For “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection”, the more recent the film, the better the picture quality.  “Fire at Sea” and “Sacro GRA” being the latest films (the former presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and the latter in 1:78:1 aspect ratio) by Rosi looks great on Blu-ray, “Below Sea Level” (presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio) also looks very good, while “Boatman” being the oldest of the films, is presented in black and white 1:33:1.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Each of the films from “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is presented in 2.0 stereo, with the exception of “Fire at Sea” which is is presented in Italian 5.1 surround.  “Below Sea Level” is presented in English, “Boatman” in English, Italian and Hindi” and “Sacro GRA” in Italian.  Each with optional English subtitles.

Dialogue is clear through the front channels and English subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Gianfranco Rosi – (5:12) Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi talks about his filming style and waiting for the right moments to shoot and how the location and the people are important.
  • Interview with Pietro Bartolo – (29:55) Interview with Pietro Bartolo, doctor and director of the hospital of Lampedusa.
  • NYFF: Q&A with Gianfranco Rosi  – (23:41) Q&A with filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi.  Q&A is moderated by Dennis Lim, courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center.

EXTRAS:

“The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” comes with a 12-page booklet featuring an essay “Unsentimental Journeys: The Films of Gianfranco Rosi” by Nicolas Rapold.


Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is known for his attentiveness to form, waiting for the right moments to capture emotion and reactions and showcase reality in its purest form for his documentaries.

Kino Lorber’s “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” features four different type of documentaries capturing humanity in various levels.

The first film featured is Rosi’s “Fire at Sea”, a heartbreaking film that shows us the reality of African, Syrian and other refugees from other countries who have risked their lives to leave their country in hopes for a better life in Lampadusa.

Visually, “Fire at Sea” is Gianfranco Rosi’s most impressive film.  Each shot is beautiful one side and the other side is tragic.  As the film tries to show us the more joyful side of Lampadusa of young Samuele on the island, the reality is that the island is the destination for those seeking refuge away from Africa, the Middle East and so many people perish because no other country would allow them in, but the island of Lampadusa.

We watch as a boat of African refugees arrive.  While at first you think everyone on top is safe and has made it, you start to learn the reality that the boat is a triple decker.  Those who paid more are put in the boat like sardines on top, others who have windows through the middle but those on bottom, with barely enough air to breath and to move, these are the ones that paid only a few hundred dollars less and have the most terrible conditions and where most of the dead are found.

Dr. Pietro Bartolo is a man we learn on how tragic things are, as he is the main physician and director at the hospital trying to help these refugees.  And questioning why so many have to die, when others could have let them into their countries, maybe not to live but at least give them treatment because the rid on the Mediterranean Sea is not only treacherous but they are in inhumane conditions to begin with.

And to see death as Italian authorities remove people from the boat one by one is shocking and heartbreaking and gives a new perspective to those wondering why people sacrifice their lives.  And for these people, it’s hope.  Hope that they can start a new life away from a country they once called home but is actually a living hell.  Having lived in that hell, to confront death on sea in hopes that they can survive and live a new life in a new country.

“Below Sea Level” is not as heartbreaking but more of a day in the life of those who chose to live in Scab City, away from society, homeless and all they have is whatever is in their RV or bus and just trying to make it.  Those who have called the region their home, a desolate area where many joint together to play instruments and have fun.  While others get annoyed by their neighbors.

The main highlight of the film is watching two intelligent individuals, a man and woman who are together for intelligent conversation but also for companionship.  But because their nasty living conditions with scabies and unclean areas, the female woman known as “Doctor” (who helps those in the area with medical needs) has enough and complains to her companion that she can’t live in such conditions.  But the man retorts with the fact that they are both homeless and she shouldn’t be complaining.

Others who have families, stays in touch with them via cell phone but know they chose a life of desolation.

This is not a film for one to feel bad about the individuals because for many of them, this is the life they live and are used to living.  Only a few of them want to escape that life but for the most part, it’s the only life they have lived and are comfortable with.  And Rosi just captures their conversations and their day-to-day life without questioning their lifestyle.

The third film “Boatman” is probably one of my favorites in the collection because of the correlation of what is presented on camera back in 1993 but then reading in the newspapers of the problems today.

The documentary shows us a boatman rowing through deep waters, many coming to the River Ganges to cleanse themselves of their sins or the poor to bury their loved ones in the water.  The problem today, 25-years after the film was shot is that the river has receded and the bodies are now all floating, the stench is gastly and dogs and vultures feed upon the deceased.

Eliminating the problems of the present, the film is rather interesting because we see many people who flock to the river for river burials or cleansing, travelers being taken on a tour through the river as the foreigners take pictures of the thousands who have flocked to the river, meanwhile dead bodies are floating all around.  And we learn from the Boatman of why their are bodies floating, why people bury their loved ones and while non-natives may question the Hindu tradition, the Boatman looks at it as part of life.  How it has been and no one questions it…just the foreigners who have so many questions.

Also, featured are interviews with foreigners living in India.  This includes an Italian man who is broke and homeless and stuck in India, an English doctor who cleanses himself in the waters, to foreigners who immersed themselves in Hinduism and more.

But “Boatman” is a compelling and fascinating documentary.

“Sacro GRA” is the final film which shows us the various people living near the highway circling Rome.  The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the film is also a day-in-the-life of various people.  Whereas “Below Sea Level” features people who are homeless and living as a community in a desolate area in California, “Sacro GRA” is about the different people, each with different lives, living near Sacro GRA.

Each of these four films presented in the “Gianfranco Rosi Collection” are entertaining but also highlight the artful technique of the skillful documentarian, Gianfranco Rosi. Observational and enlightening, “The Gianfranco Rosi Collection” is an excellent addition to one’s cinema collection featuring the works of one of the most awarded and and respected documentarians of today. Recommended!

 






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