Earlier this month Save The Children reported that, in this year alone, 600 children have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to escape the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War has been raging for the past five years, and it doesn’t appear that the conflict is going to end soon. Although the media routinely report on the crisis, it can be difficult to truly get a sense of the people caught in the catastrophe. Director Skye Fitzgerald is attempting to change this by documenting the plight of the refugees. His current work is closely related to his last film, 50 Feet from Syria, which followed orthopedic surgeon Hisham Bismar as he traveled to the Syrian border to help victims of the civil war.
Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s goal with both films is “to capture the resilience of humanity in the determined acts of goodwill that spring up in response to war’s grim consequences” (Cichanowicz). Sea-Watch is one such organization that demonstrates the “resilience of humanity,” which is why it will be featured in Fitzgerald’s new film.
Fitzgerald recently documented a search and rescue mission conducted by the organization in the Southern Mediterranean. The MS Sea-Watch 2 is a 98-year-old ship, only 30 meters long, and can’t accommodate many passengers. Therefore, Fitzgerald decided to keep his crew small: just himself and one other person accompanied the rest of the Search and Rescue crew on board.
On October 3rd-5th, the Search and Rescue (SAR) ship encountered 2200 refugees and migrants in the Southern Mediterranean. Over the course of three days the crew of 16 successfully saved all but two.
Since the (SAR) ship is too small to fit many passengers, it sends out a speedboat when it spots refugees. The crew on the speedboat includes doctors who immediately go through a triage process providing the refugees with drinking water, life vests, and medical attention if necessary. The crew members who remain on the MS Sea-Watch alert the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) based in Rome who eventually send a transport ship for the refugees.
The second part of Fitzgerald’s film explores the darker reality of the refugee situation. In September, he and his Director of Photography, Kenny Allen, travelled to the shores of Tunisia where the bodies of drowned refugees routinely wash up. After the bodies appear on the shore, they are taken to a landfill where they are buried in mass, unmarked graves. As a result of this situation, the relatives of the dead will never know where their family members are buried. Beyond a routine checking of the bodies for documents, no effort is made to identify any of the bodies. Fitzgerald hopes this part of the documentary will serve as a reminder of how dire the situation is and how much humanitarian aid is needed.