62nd TIFF: Mediterráneo

Mediterráneo is the 4th film directed by Marcel Barrena. It tells the true story of Òscar Camps and all the Catalan volunteers who accompanied him to the island of Lesvos. This was an immediate decision taken after seeing the famous picture of Aylan Kurdi, who died in the shores of the island during an attempt to cross from Turkey. What was supposed to be a simple weekend trip, one month later ended up in the creation of Open Arms, a NGO still active nowadays – six years later.

Mediterráneo 62nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival
From the festival’s official page (https://www.filmfestival.gr/el/movie-tiff/movie/13967)

The movie is efficient in putting the viewer living the action, surrounded by a very well-designed aura of realism. The story is soberly put and Human – and we truly get to empathize with the inner struggle of the characters. Their insecurities, their doubts, are ours as well. Luckily, the director was present during the screening, and so he could share the secret ingredients behind the special environment Mediterráneo succeeds to create.


First of all, the people we get to see being rescued are real refugees. Of course such brought big concerns to the table, as there was the possibility that (re-)acting such scenes could (re-)ignite traumas to the refugees. Marcel Barrena resumed the outcome of taking such a risk in one simple story: A 14-year old Syrian girl started screaming and crying during a wreckage simulation; and so he decided to stop filming and went to ask her if she was alright, to which she replied, surprised, “Why did you stop? Am I not acting well?”
Additionally, the relationship between the members of the crew was quite friendly – as the very personal compliments did by the director to the colleagues present on the screening denoted. It seems these close bounds within the team contributed to make this persue for authenticity turn flesh. Within this chapter we could cite, as well, a story in which the real Òscar Camps asked to participate in a scene, dressed as a cop, so as to punch Eduard Fernández – who plays… Òscar Camps.

Finally, the filmed locations were very carefully chosen, to be as close as possible to those where the real story took place. This allowed the team to respond to one of the biggest problems they had to face: The impossibility to film in Lesvos – after around 20 visitis to the island to plan the shooting. As the official version goes, when they were getting ready to advance, the island faced another period of nazi attacks, making it impossible for the local authorities to ensure their security. These type of violent actions took place from time to time, specially between Mytilene and Moria, and forced both refugees and international volunteers to stay indoors for their safety.

During the final questions, when asked if we should not rather shift the focus from Europe to the countries where the root of the problems lies, Marcel Barrena answered: Probably yes, but I am just a storyteller; what I can do is this, and I have been showing this film in schools back in Catalonia, seeking to contribute for the education about the matter, which I think is also important; but I am not a politician, and I cannot do more than telling stories. He added he was sorry for not giving a more “genial” answer – however, in his honesty and simplicity, he actually did.

This piece about Mediterráneo is part of a series of articles produced by volunteers of Balkan Hotspot, concerning the 62nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which includes: Whispers of War.

Post Author: Bernardo Guerra Machado

It has been 24 years of having dense, made in Portugal eyebrows. Despite not being able to drink from champagne flutes due to his big nose, he has recently concluded a master in Evolution and Human Behaviour. Feels passionate about gathering unexpected stories and understanding the process of learning a new culture.

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