Last week we heard the devastating news that the bodies of at least 65 people have been discovered in a mass grave in southwest Libya.

In a statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that the circumstances of the people’s deaths and nationalities was unknown “but it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert”.

This week we see the general release of IO CAPITANO, the harrowing yet hopeful odyssey of a young Senegalese named Seydou as he journeys over sand and seas at the mercy of unscrupulous people smugglers. His fate could just as well been that among the 65.

Seydou’s life in Dakar is not war torn and he is not fleeing strife, but leaving spurred by dreams of a better life. Indeed, his life in the village seems hard but not harsh, with a loving mother and a communal joy of singing and dancing.

If not exactly idyllic, the film’s early scenes present an exuberant vibe with the universal conflict of parental advice and dictates clashing with the desires of the child. But this is a Matteo Garrone picture and you know there is going to be some gritty storytelling to follow.

Slave trading, torture, separation, corrupt officialdom course through this saga, but the good soul Seydou does not give in to despair. Seydou Sarr stars as Seydou, the embodiment of hope, faith and charity, not in some supernatural manifestation but pure, good, humanity.

Paolo Carnera’s cinematography is superb, especially the sand swept vistas of the Sahara. Music by Andrea Farri is a brilliant mixture of indigenous music with sweeping symphony.

On reflection, I am reminded of the lyrics to the classic song, Nature Boy, when thinking of the good spirited Seydou: “There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy, they say he wandered very far, very far over land and sea A little shy and sad of eye but very wise was he. The greatest thing he will ever learn is to love and be loved in return”

IO CAPITANO is a revelation of resilience and resurrection, one of the best pictures of the year and the perfect Easter holiday film fare.

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