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Senegalese migrant's journey inspires oscar-nominated film

Senegalese actors Seydou Sarr, right, and Moustapha Fall pose for portraits for the movie Io Capitano (Me Captain) in Fregene, near Rome, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024.   -  
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Domenico Stinellis/Copyright {yr4} The AP. All rights reserved


Mamadou Kouassi, a cultural mediator, shares his experience working with Italian director Matteo Garrone on the Oscar-nominated film "Io Capitano." Kouassi's journey, spanning African deserts, illegal prisons, and the Mediterranean Sea aboard a smugglers' boat, served as the foundation for the film's narrative. He recounts Garrone's dedication to capturing the harsh realities of migration, even as some of the most harrowing moments had to be omitted to reach a wider audience.

"We saw many people dying in the desert, women, children," Kouassi recalls. "And even in the film, there are some parts that have been removed, women that have been violated. It was harder to put it in, Matteo removed it, because we want the film to arrive to the huge public."

The film follows the journey of two teenagers from Senegal, traversing the perilous migrant route through the Niger desert to Libya, where they board a smugglers' boat bound for Europe. One of the boys is coerced into "captaining" the boat, as minors are exempt from imprisonment in Italy.

Seydou Sarr, an actor in the film, expresses gratitude to Garrone for shedding light on the harsh realities migrants face. 

"I want to thank Matteo Garrone for making this movie because it is important for us, it is important for us in Africa and all that," he says. "Matteo made this movie to let you see what happens in fact, the reality, what we suffer to come to Europe."

Moustapha Fall, another actor, hopes the film will convey the pain and aspirations of migrants. "I hope that they will know the – how can I say – the pain," Fall says. "It is not about want to travel, it is just like a dream because every single person has a dream to travel, to discover another world."

Kouassi's journey, fraught with danger and exploitation, underscores the urgency of addressing the root causes of migration and the need for compassion and understanding toward those seeking a better life.

Garrone's film, while offering a glimpse into the migrant experience, also confronts the grim realities often overlooked by mainstream narratives.

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