Simshar: The European dream is not only dreamt by Europeans
by Sabine Kues
- Malta's first feature film accepted as an official entry for the 87th Academy Awards adopts several angles as it examines the ongoing tragedy unfolding on Europe’s borders
Simshar [+see also:
film profile] opens with the noise of a patrol helicopter flying over the Mediterranean Sea, which slowly merges into the sound of the roaring engine of a motorboat, the Simshar. This connection is a simple one on the level of the film’s audio, but there is far more complexity to be found in the intertwined stories of the fishermen and the coastguard of Malta, and the African immigrants who are trying to cross the waters and reach the promising borders of Europe. Simshar, the first feature-length film by Maltese director Rebecca Cremona, shown recently at the Brussels Film Festival as a special screening, depicts the interdependent fates of her protagonists and a crossing of the Mediterranean Sea that only some survive.
The initial scenes of the film are based on the real-life tragedy of a Maltese fishing boat that heads out to sea, and only one of the crew returns to shore. The crew consists of Theo (Adrian Farrugia), who is going out on his first fishing trip with his father, Simon (Lotfi Abdelli), his grandfather and Moussa (Sékouba Doucouré). The enforced EU legislation forces them to fish further out near Libyan territorial waters, where they get into trouble at sea. Their fight for survival begins as their hopes of being rescued start to fade.
Meanwhile, in parallel accounts of lives and fates intertwined, a second storyline follows the course of events unfolding on a Turkish vessel with numerous migrants on board, who have been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. Neither Malta nor the closer Italian island of Lampedusa allow the vessel into their harbours, and political tensions halt any further progress. The characters involved in this situation are Maltese soldier John (Chrysander Agius) and a Red Cross doctor, Alex (Mark Mifsud), who portray individuals caught between obeying orders and adhering to common sense – two extremes that do not match up. Each is confronted with the challenge of having to decide which is their greater loyalty – to humanity or to legislation.
The significant twist in this plot lies in its direct link to African immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and it succeeds in pointing out the problem areas within the debate and expounding the problems of EU legislation. It is the story of the captain of the Turkish ship who risks everything because he decides to rescue people in distress at sea, the consequences of which leave only one Simshar crew member alive. Whilst the movie seems unable to refrain from portraying dramatic scenes with unnecessary emotional music – the images would be able to carry the film by themselves – the craftsmanship behind intertwining the storylines and the characters’ lives makes up for it. After all, the movie sets out to inform on a mainstream scale.
The title was produced by Kukumajsa Productions with the support of the Malta Film Fund and recently received an Honourable Mention at Lisbon's Olhares do Mediterrâneo – Cinema no Feminino Festival.