by Confronti Editorial Staff
At the Troisi Cinema in Rome on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, the Centootto and La Cala event enjoyed great success. Fishing stories, encounters and clashes in the Mediterranean were recounted in the documentary Centootto, directed by Giuseppe Bellasalma, Michele Lipori and Claudio Paravati, and produced by Fai CISL and Confronti Kino. The film tells the story of the fishermen of Mazara del Vallo, who were kidnapped for 108 days in Libyan prisons last year.
Following the screening, a round table discussion was held on the same theme with Marco Tarquinio (director of Avvenire), Don Bruno Ciceri (International Director of the Stella Maris Network), Goffredo Fofi (film critic), Michele Lipori (co-director), Giuseppe Bellasalma (co-director), Patrizio Giorni (national secretary of Fai CISL), Giuseppe Ciulla (co-author of the book La Cala), and Catia Catania (co-author of the book La Cala). The discussion was moderated by Stefania Sarallo (Confronti editorial staff).
The documentary film Centootto—born from an idea of Onofrio Rota, as recalled by Patrizio Giorni, secretary general of Fai CISL—was supported by the federation which closely followed the story of the fishermen and their families from the seizure of the Medinea and her crew until their release: “I remember the 108 days of kidnapping, and as a federation we also followed the garrison that the families of the kidnapped fishermen organized in front of Montecitorio and gave them logistical and organizational support. We followed the whole story and we hope that such incidents will never happen again, but the question of the safety of the sailors, especially in the Mazara del Vallo area, is an ever-present problem.”
“We don’t care much about the Mediterranean, but when we do, we raise walls,” stated Giuseppe Ciulla, “yet we are a country that should be more concerned with the sea. There is a government that is trying to activate its own presence in Libya. The issue is complicated. We lack the political support and the possibility of sitting down and establishing rules and treaties, so that these people can fish safely.”
The question of safety is not entirely new for the fishermen of Mazara, remembered Catia Catania, who in the book La Cala recounted the history of Mazara del Vallo: “As early as the 1960s, fishermen asked for protections at sea, because already 70 years ago there were problems with Tunisia, similar to those that now exist with Libya, and it is from here that a story was born that conveys our history and our identity.”
This is a story that it is necessary to know, Marco Tarquinio pointed out, and which requires constant information about the public opinion on Italy’s position on the Mediterranean: “What is happening in the Mediterranean is emblematic of how people without power are taken hostage within uncivilized political logics, whether it is fishermen or refugees and migrants. This is the structural condition of the Mediterranean since we have begun to transform a sea—that has always been a place of communication and exchange—into a wall of water.”
Even the Church, Don Bruno Ciceri asserted, was not indifferent to the tragic story of the fishermen of Mazara del Vallo: “When they returned with the fishing boats, which unfortunately were empty shells, as the Church we committed ourselves to rennovating them. This effort was also possible thanks to some companies that have generously committed themselves to this effort. It’s nice to see them all here and see this film and relive with them the emotions I shared last year. Perhaps we need to work more together, as the Church, the associations and trade unions, to make sure the voices of these forgotten seafarers are still heard.”
The importance of not forgetting sea workers and telling their stories was recalled by Goffredo Fofi, who recognized the conspicuous absence of “sea culture” in narrations about the sea. “There are very few films and also very few novels that talk about the sea. Excluding Verga, Capuana, some Neapolitans and occasionally D’annunzio, the sea is not addressed by hardly anyone. Only later with Neorealism and post-war Italy did someone begin to do so. But we didn’t have any Joseph Conrads, despite being a peninsula three quarters of which is surrounded by the sea and despite having a large part of the population living by the sea. Yet the Italian bourgeois culture has never looked very carefully at these things. This is why a documentary like Centootto serves to remind us that we are the sea, and that the sea is something that concerns us all.”
The relationship with the sea, beyond this chronicle, is a universal story, and this is what guided the making of the documentary, as the co-director Giuseppe Bellasalma explained. “When we started working on the narrative, we realized that this story contained universal themes, which were important to emphasize. Newspapers and televisions had already talked about the news, but the absence of fishermen and their families is a perennial existential condition, made up of waiting for husbands, fathers, brothers and children. So we realized that this was the story we had to tell, as well as the relationship these people have with the sea—a relationship made of gratitude and fear.”
The event’s closing inaugurated the Centootto photographic exhibition, curated by Michele Lipori, which will remain open to the public at the Troisi Cinema until December 28th. The photographs on display, taken during the shooting of the film, portray the film’s protagonists, the fishermen and their families, in the intimacy of their homes and in the daily routine of working on the fishing boat, alternating communal moments with close-ups. “Coming into intimate contact with these people, whose faces and stories you have seen, was easy, because they opened their homes and hearts to us in an immediate way,” said Michele Lipori, who commented on his choice to render the shots in black and white: “Holding a camera makes you, at the same time, closer to and also more objective about the people and situations you want to convey. And through this closeness and distance, in my opinion, it is possible to convey an emotion to those who are not physically there. Black and white compounds the particularity of this photographic medium, because it allows you to leave behind the ‘noise’ to immerse yourself in a whole new reality.”