Gianfranco Rosi's Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea, 2016), won the Golden Bear at the 2016 Berlinale, was shown to the European parliament, distributed to heads of state by Matteo Renzi, and has become the contemporary film most closely associated with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. This article considers the film alongside Rosi's earlier film about Slab City, California, Below Sea Level (2008), previously little seen in the US. Wilson argues that Rosi is more than a filmmaker of the migrant tragedy in Europe, radically important though his vision is of this moment. With and beyond Fuocoammare, all his films look at extreme experiences of living and dying. Inspired by the work of philosopher and psychoanalyst Anne Dufourmantelle on secrecy, love, tenderness and risk, Wilson considers how Rosi's films achieve a closeness to their characters: a sensory and emotional immediacy, whilst refusing voyeurism and intrusion.

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