When Pandemic arrived in Lampedusa last summer — the tiny Italian island at the forefront of the latest migrant crisis — it became a default proving ground for foreign aid. Once they built their way out from a shipping container, hundreds of migrants were showered with garbage and medical workers tended to them with medicine. In November, the actors made their first film in this remote corner of Europe.
At first, the eyes of the world may have lingered on Eritrea, but in Lampedusa and elsewhere, interviews with villagers and onlookers show they are taking a keen interest in the troupe, too. In Sicily, for example, gendarmes are busily maintaining extra security in ports and helping with film production.
“Pandemic tells an important story,” said the film’s director, Tunisian-born Karim Comi. “Something is happening in the world, the world is changing. The movie tells different questions and puts a question mark in front of everybody.”
Recently, Cannes selected a final movie script about Lampedusa written by Pandemic’s Valerie Tamas, and the artists behind the film and in the community are working to make it happen. They hope to have a script completed by the end of the year.
Besides today’s director (see Story), the rest of the cast includes Moria Zarti, an architect in her early 30s, who came to Lampedusa after seeing images of the migrants on television. Ms. Zarti is also a member of the Luxembourg Gendarmerie, a military unit.
Ankhil Mathur, who studied geology in India, appears in some scenes as Eric, a miner from an impoverished coastal village, helping to prepare for the arrival of foreigners. Last summer, he fled violence in Assam, a remote northeastern state that accounts for one-quarter of the illegal migrants to Italy.
Herbert Margrault, 30, an artisan, did not leave home, but left the safety of home in Seville, Spain, in order to return to a difficult village. When asked about the best thing he could see about his country, he has this comment to make: “There is no way for education.”
In the press release about the film, the film’s makers see their audience as soldiers in a war: “We are soldiers, but above all, we are refugees, warriors who go into battle by uniting, defending humanity.”
When the entire cast met to discuss their performance, the anger was not expressed in anger but in expressions of wishfulness. They spoke of bravery, of ways to help, of a broader duty.
As the soldiers in their armbands clanged together drums at the end of the set, someone said: “It is our village, it is the village of my neighbors, it is the village of your sisters and brothers, but we are sending us migrants.”
Igor Fronczak contributed reporting.