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On the southernmost Italian island, Lampedusa, people live modest but mostly comfortable lives. Fisherman head out to sea in their boats, housewives cook pasta, and boys roam the land in their free time. Beyond their tidy homes, the unsettling reality of the rest of the world arrives regularly on the rocky coast.

Refugees from Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, the Ivory Coast, and many other places converge on this tiny island in watery rubber boats or listing, half-sunken ships. They are fleeing deprivation and violence, looking for a safer place. To find it, they take harrowing risks and dangerous voyages. They come to Lampedusa malnourished, weak, and desperate. Many, many die before they are rescued.

Refugees are processed and housed in an overcrowded detention center, where they try to pass the time in soccer tournaments and waiting in line to use a payphone in the hopes of speaking with loved ones. Meanwhile their young neighbors learn to row boats in that same dangerous sea, and they pretend, like children around the world, to shoot guns and fight wars.

Fire at Sea is a quiet, slow-paced, but powerful documentary, juxtaposing the normal, everyday life and concerns of the Italians on the island with the coast guard rescuers and the doctors who deal with the horrifying state of the people who have journeyed so far to get there. The Academy Award-nominated film will give viewers a new perspective on the plight of refugees and the countries that are on the front lines of receiving them. It also hints at how easy it is to be wrapped up in your daily life at the same time that disaster is unfolding for others not so far away. On disc now. (Kino Lorber)

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