Matteo Garrone’s gripping drama ‘IO CAPITANO,’ (Italy’s Oscar submission) inspired by a true-life experience is an epic achievement, heartbreakingly shows the punishing process of illegal immigrants

By Oliver Carnay

I received the screener link from this stunning film ‘IO CAPITANO’ (Me Captain), a story about the bravery and heroism of two boys from Dakar, Senegal, who faced the harrowing danger and journey travelling to Italy via land and sea in hopes of having a better life as musicians.
Musician -turned-actor Seydou Sarr gave an impressive performance in this captivating film and won the coveted Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor at the recent Venice Film Festival, playing the Senegalese 16 year-old who did not give up crossing the Sahara desert, and received mistreatment from human traffickers, a modern-day slavery in Libya, even after his cousin ‘Moussa’ (Moustapha Fall, another non-actor who gives a powerful performance) is imprisoned by corrupt border guards, he still never gives up his quest to be in Italy.
From writer-director Matteo Garrone (best known for his films TALE OF TALES, DOGMA, and GOMORRA), this will be Italy’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Best Director and Green Drop Award at the recent 2023 Venice Film Festival.
After watching the film from a screener link, I couldn’t resist the chance to watch it again at the AFIFEST screening and attend the Q&A (last Saturday, October 28), with Director Matteo Garrone, the two lead actors SEYDOU SARR and MOUSTAPHA FALL in attendance, as well as script consultant Mamadou Kouassi, whose life experiences inspired the film.

During the Q&A, Seydou gives an insight about the opportunity and huge gratitude he lends to his director in taking him in a lead role. Moustapha, on the other hand, delivers a powerful message to the audience. Mamadou Kouassi also gave an important speech.