What I Love About... Fire At Sea

By Joshua Paul

Fire At Sea Dir: Gianfranco Rosi | Italy

Fire At Sea hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw it. This quiet film is subtle and understated for most of its runtime - it is shot on Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Sicily, where most people are fisherman. Periodically, the dependable routines of the villagers are interrupted by boats packed with refugees drifting off shore - a result of the European Migrant Crisis of 2015. Government officials work overtime to take in these boats; distributing blankets and food, administering health care where necessary, and moving the people into a refugee camp. 


Primarily, we follow a young boy living on the island. His dad dives for fish. His mum cooks at home. He and his friend shoot slingshots at cacti. He tells the doctor he is more sick than he is. The doctor shows the cameraman  pictures of some migrants he has treated. The local radio operator converses with drifting ships, and relays their position to the coastguard. The coastguard scrambles helicopters and speed boats.

Director Gianfranco Rosi shoots with such a careful eye for humanity. The film usually operates on long takes of beautiful stationary shots. A helicopter preparing for take off. A pier full of boats bobbing on the water. A radio console. Our young boy carving a slingshot. The film is strung together with these poignant vignettes that powerfully convey the raw and real circumstances people find themselves in. You can't help but feel empathy as the film unfolds.  

At some point in the film, the juxtaposition just clicked with me - the simple stable lives of the villagers contrasted with the desperation and tragedy of the migrants' plight - all the frantic activity to bring survivors aboard while back at home a woman silently changes the sheets in the guest room. 


Fire At Sea screened at Stronger Than Fiction in 2016. It is available on DVD or iTunes. 

Review - The Dead Nation

Review by Michael Goss

The Dead Nation   Dir: Radu Jude | Romania 2017


The Dead Nation is Director Radu Jude’s haunting account of a troubled period of Romanian history brought back to life using an extensive photo archive. This found-footage film of life in provincial Romania in the lead up to WW2 makes a makes a superb, illuminating selection from this photographic treasure trove.


As a multi-dimensional snapshot of history, the film is a rich evocation of a community on the brink of war. The soundtrack features extracts from the diary of a Jewish doctor fully aware of the approaching catastrophe interwoven with period radio broadcasts and patriotic anthems.

The film is striking in its purity, with beautiful images placed in the context of barely conceivable horrors, crafting a powerful depiction of fractured times that speaks to the unease of our own age.


Review - My Year With Helen

Review By Rod Freedman

My Year With Helen  Dir: Gaylene Preston | New Zealand

New Zealand filmmaker Gaylene Preston follows former PM Helen Clark over a year in her bid to become the 1st Secretary General of the UN after 72 years of male SGs. We know she didn’t succeed, but the process is revealing of the behind-the-scenes machinations and politicking of the powerful and not so powerful countries.

An inspiring portrait of a forthright woman, a major player on the world stage who still ensures her ageing dad has homemade frozen dinners while she’s away running the United Nations Development Program.

The film conveys how tough it is to break the remaining glass ceilings. May it motivate future generations of women to keep at it!
- Helen Clark, 2017

ROD FREEDMAN is an independent director and producer whose documentaries have won many Australian and international awards and screened in dozens of film festivals. Rod is particularly interested in stories about people and their life’s journeys.

Announcing Stronger Than Fiction News!

We recently announced on Facebook that we're stepping back for a year.

After tripling in size over four successful years, Stronger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival has decided to take a break in 2017 in order to concentrate on developing partnerships to ensure that we can keep knocking your socks off with breathtaking documentaries and events for many more years to come.

Our first step is this - our new blogspace - Stronger Than Fiction News!

For several years we've been sharing news and updates on documentaries we've screened, and other related topics (if you don't already, please follow us here). Now, we've engaged a number of contributors to write for us on our very own site.

You'll meet them all in the coming months, and we'll share them with you both through the newsletter and social media. We'll put any updates on the next festival up here as well. We hope you'll read and follow and participate in the discussion.

We look forward to hearing from you - and we very much look forward to bringing you more jaw-dropping documentaries in 2018!


- The STF Team