Film & TV

Film Review: Io Capitano

Cousins Seydou and Moussa decide to take the treacherous journey from Dakar in Senegal, to Europe via Libya, encountering con-men, torturers, and corrupt police.

Magnificent, harrowing, and urgent.

Director Matteo Garrone last hit the screens with a feature film in 2019 with his magnificent Pinocchio. His latest release is the very different, but no less brilliant, Io Capitano.

In Dakar, Senegal, two teenage cousins, Seydou and Moussa decide to go against their mothers’ wishes, and leave to head to Europe for work. Seydou is a talented singer and songwriter, seeing his future as “signing autographs for whites.” After going to the cemetery to ask their ancestors’ permission to leave, the boys sneak out in the middle of night, and begin their odyssey. And odyssey it truly is, with Garrone taking this opportunity to make a journey film of truly Homeric proportions. However, instead of cyclops and sirens, the boys encounter con-men, corrupt police, violent border-patrols, and the Libyan mafia. They endure days walking the Sahara Desert, imprisonment, torture, and a sea journey in a boat that is fit only for scrap.

Seydou Sarr as Seydou and Moustapha Fall as Moussa bring a freshness and authenticity to the screen. They are surrounded by an astonishing cast of smaller characters, extras, and featured-extras, all of whom put in astonishing performances. Gifted with settings such as the Sahara Desert, north African towns like Agadez in Niger, and a boat in the Mediterranean Sea, cinematographer Paolo Carnera has made the most of it, producing some of the most breathtaking shots in recent cinema. Also contributing to this is masterful production design by Dimitri Capuani. The icing on the cake is glorious soundtrack by Andrea Farri, which uses Senegalese music to joyful and moving effect.

Io Capitano does not pull any punches in showcasing the horrors and indignities that people will go through to migrate. There are scenes that are definitely not for the delicate of disposition! Yet through this horror weaves the thread of love, compassion, and faith. The cousins never give up on each other. And Seydou never gives up on the suffering people around him.

This is an astonishing work, and one which deserves large audiences. It is easy to see why it was nominated for both an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe, and has won a host of European awards.

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