The Captain is the International Feature submission for Italy. The film is about two young teenagers and cousins, Seydou and Moussa. They live in Dakar, Senegal. They’ve been secretly working odd jobs for the past six months saving money to leave their city and families behind to move to Europe. They dream of becoming hip hop stars where they can earn even more money to support their families and to give everyone a better life. Despite locals warning them not to do the impossible journey, the young men escape one morning and jump on the bus to head to Mali. Their illegal migration has begun.
After securing fake passports, their first goal is to head west to Agadez, Niger. And from there to head across the Sahara Desert up north to Tripoli, Libya until they reach the small town called Zuara. The final leg of the journey is the boat ride to Italy. Their destination. Their dream. But nothing goes as planned. Checkpoint guards ask for money. Drivers leave them stranded in the desert. The Libyan mafia ambush and torture them until every single cent they own is given to them. Bitterly regretting their decision, wanting to go back home, but knowing that they can no longer turn back, Seydou and Moussa fight for survival where dead bodies lay all around them.
The film is inspired by a true story. And the film is a brutal account of the punishing process of leaving one world behind in hopes for a better one in a new place. The cruelty can be unrelenting but it’s absolutely appropriate to convey the harsh reality these two young men find themselves in. It’s meant to communicate a callous and inhumane procedure that disturbs one to the core. Despite all of this, the beauty of the film are the small triumphs and kindness that they receive along the way. It’s the small moments of hope that give Seydou and Moussa the strength to keep going.
The terrifying thing about this journey though, is that if they make it to Europe, and that’s a big if, they’re only halfway done. Europe isn’t a magical place where dreams are fulfilled instantaneously. Migrants who somehow do manage to enter Europe are often criminalized, locked up in prison-like conditions, and expelled as quickly as possible. Language barriers, the search for a job, homelessness, racism are all new challenges that arise as well. The next chapter for these migrants will be filled with a whole new set of horrors.
Seydou and Moussa are just two people out of millions who have attempted to do the impossible, to try to change their lives and be the captain of their lives.