Mare Nostro: The age-old relationship of the community with the sea
by Samuel Antichi
- Italian director Andrea Gadaleta Caldarola returns to his hometown, tracing out the social and economic ecosystem of the place, suspended between tradition and transformations in time
Molfetta, a city in Southern Italy caressed by the waters of the Adriatic Sea, where picturesque glimpses of the town and postcard images hide the harsh reality of the fishermen who live there, crushed by large fishing companies and betrayed by the sea, which can no longer offer them the work and resources it once did. Indeed, the smooth sea stretching out before the small town is one of the biggest dumping grounds of remnants from war in the entire West. During a Nazi air raid in 1943, 17 British and American ships sank here, dumping not only the traditional unexploded bombs into the sea, but bombs filled with chemical substances too. A mine field, littered with approximately 15,000 ordnances whose toxic substances, which are slowly but surely leaking into the sea, are polluting the water and killing the fish. Andrea Gadaleta Caldarola returns to his hometown, tracing out the social and economic ecosystem of the place, suspended between tradition and transformations in time.
As the radio announces the latest on the construction of the new commercial port of Molfetta, work on which was started with state funding and then halted when the contractors started embezzling the money, the fishermen express their concerns, worries and resignations in relation to the reduced yield of the sea and the ever-dwindling profitability of the centuries-old trade of fishing, increasingly the prerogative of big companies. The story is told not only through the accounts of the fishermen, but takes on a life of its own through the images that capture and portray moments of everyday life in the town, out on the fishing boats, at the fish market, and during religious processions.
Mare Nostro [+see also:
film profile], which had its premiere in Nyon at the last edition of Visions du Réel, was shown in the main section of the Alessandria Film Festival, an event which aims to give a stage to young filmmakers with works characterised by their original style and form.
Indeed, Mare Nostro falls into the category of those new forms of documentary that investigate and reflect the relationship between film and reality. Compelled by the need to tell stories about the people and places he belongs to, the director uses the medium of film to challenge reality. The long stationary and hypnotic frames, which open up a space for contemplation, film a link with the world, one which is constantly changing, reconstructing it. By weaving and recomposing historical and personal memories, news stories and folkloristic events, sacred and secular, commercial and tourism-based, the film explores the ancient and profound relationship of the community with the sea.
This is not a journalistic inquiry on the impoverishment of the sea or the fishing crisis, but a sophisticated formal study that makes its enquiries through a combination of aesthetic and ethnographic vision, with new forms and methods in documentary film.
(Translated from Italian)