'It Will Be Chaos': Film Review | Seattle 2018

An intimate look at the personal ordeals behind migration crisis statistics.

Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo's doc follows individual migrants seeking safety in Europe in 2013 and 2015.

Making its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Fest in advance of an HBO broadcast debut, Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo's It Will Be Chaos follows two stories of migration that bring a deeply personal perspective to the political crisis still unfolding across the globe. Sympathetic both to those who take enormous risks to keep their families safe and to the unprepared hosts who must decide how to deal with them, the sober doc puts viewers in refugees' shoes; though it doesn't explicitly advocate any particular governmental policies, those who make such policies would do well to see it.

The film opens on the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, in the aftermath of the tragedy that left more than 350 migrants dead. As local officials and heartbroken survivors argue about what to do with the bodies that lie rotting in unrefrigerated coffins, we cut to later interviews with an Eritrean man named Aregai. He shows pictures of his dead relatives and calmly describes how the boat he was on with them capsized on the way from Libya to Italy.

Back on the island, the filmmakers talk with the Colapinto family, fishermen who saved 18 people from the water; and they watch as Mayor Giusy Nicolini corrects the journalists covering the story. "These are not 'illegals,'" she insists, but people who will be helped by her community. Before long, though, survivors are being charged with illegal immigration.

Cut to 2015, in Izmir, Turkey, as the extended Orfahli family huddles in an apartment discussing their planned meeting with a smuggler. It's been 20 days since they fled Syria, and they're a long way (in both distance and logistics) from Germany, where they hope to relocate. Patriarch Wael is an impatient mess as people urge him to postpone their boat crossing because of expected storms. As he races against the bad weather — shopping for life jackets; being warned by friends that the Yamaha-branded ones are "poor quality" and won't protect them — he says at one point, "I don't care if I die, I just want to leave."

In patient observational sequences, the film moves back and forth between these two sagas: following one family through many stages of migration; watching as the much larger group of shipwreck survivors endures their long limbo in Italy. It's in Italy that we get the best sense of the difficulty well-meaning hosts have in living up to their ideals. The little town of Riace welcomes 200 migrants; but as upper levels of bureaucracy take forever to issue them the documents they need, refugees grow hungry and can't get jobs.

Luciano and Piscopo eschew the talking heads we've heard so much from in news accounts of assorted migration crises. We see practically everything from the migrants' point of view, with no journalists or historians stepping in to paint a bigger picture around them. Here, the only important thing is that these individuals could not remain in their homes; they picked whatever destination they seemed most likely to thrive in and tried to get their loved ones there in one piece.

Production company-Distributor: HBO Documentary Films
Directors-Producers: Lorena Luciano, Filippo Piscopo
Executive producer: Nancy Abraham
Director of photography: Filippo Piscopo
Editor: Lorena Luciano
Composers: Andrew Byrne, Matthew Rohde
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival

In Arabic
93 minutes