Review: ‘Closed Sea’

Aleksandra Koluvija reflects on the thought-provoking documentary Closed Sea, a topic particularly close to her heart due to her past as a legal advisor at the UN for refugees.
Directed by Stefano Liberti and Andrea Segre, 60 minutes.

There are those very rare moments where we can go back into the past we never had. Moments where we see our former imagination develop in front of our eyes. Perhaps we had these thoughts many times, but it took pictures on a screen to let them develop.

Closed Sea is a documentary by Stefano Liberti and Andrea Segre that gives a close up view on the hopes and the plight of several African migrants and refugees trying to escape Libya in 2008. There aim is to reach Lampedusa – a small Italian island in the Mediterranean. What makes this documentary worth watching is not just that it shows people – simple people – unwilling to give up trying to reach a place they believe to be safe, but it also shows how much refugees have to go through to apply for asylum in Europe.

Liberti and Segre go beyond showing the memories of several migrants and refugees who parted Libya on the same boat in order to reach the Italian coast. While the recordings of one of the migrants show the immediate hopes and dreams these people shared, this documentary also shows how there situation worsened after the Italian navy put a stop to their escape to Europe. Before the boat parted from the Libyan coast, Berlusconi and Gaddafi signed an agreement in 2008. This agreement allows the Italian navy to forcibly return migrants to Libya before they reach the Italian coast. Regarded as an immediate threat to the Italian social framework, the navy got the order to intercept the attempt of the migrants and refugees to reach Italy to apply for asylum and pushed them back to Libya. In Libyan prisons the police would abuse them in various ways.

The witnesses of the “push back” were interviewed in the Shousha refugee camp at the border between Libya and Tunisia and in two reception camps for asylum seekers in southern Italy, in order to show what actually happened to them on the Italian ships during the “push back operations” and in Libyan prisons after their deportation. Their interviews constitute the main part of the documentary, along with a session of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where one of the witnesses sued Italy for violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Screened by Amnesty International and Mobile Kino at Queen Kotti on the 20th of March the images of the documentary took me behind the scenes of the stories I heard. Stories I was told while working as a legal advisor for refugee issues on an island in the Mediterranean. Perhaps I was too young and too inexperienced to fully understand what I was witnessing during the Libya crises in 2011, but the documentary helped me to understand it a little better and to draw better conclusions. I could finally see behind the scenes and explore the thoughts of the migrants and refugees. This enabled me to see the stories I heard in the past in a fully different angle.

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