Theatrical Documentary, length 139'15" min, DCP, color and black and white, D/I 2016.
Messina” is both a contemplative cinematographic voyage in, and critique of, one of Europe’s most significant sites. The sea between Scylla and Charybdis has presented many challenges - in reality, dreams, myths and policy-making - from ancient times to the present.
One of the focal points of the film is the book "Horcynus Orca" by Stefano D’Arrigo: translated into a foreign language for the first time (Editor Fischer Verlag), forty years after its first edition in Italy. The German press, fascinated by this epic tale and the richness of its language, defined this book as the last masterpiece of the twentieth century. The translation by Moshe Kahn was awarded the Italian-German Translation Prize in 2015. Translated publications will follow in the USA and in France (Éditions Le nouvel Attila).
Another important focal point of the film is Messina’s contemporary policy-making sector. It is a large Sicilian city at the periphery of the European Union governed by centrist parties for decades. Pervaded by corruption, mafia infiltration, appropriation by family and party lines, and questionable procurement practices, the city government was placed under the administration of an external commissioner and, in 2013, a “minority major” was elected with great expectations: Renato Accorinti. For the past 40 years he worked with anarchical energy for human rights, the environment, non-violent society, participatory democracy, and respect of the common good, starting with the weakest in society, and worked against the Straight of Messina Bridge and the mafia. Supported by the movement “Cambiamo Messina dal basso” (“Let’s change Messina from the ground up”), his administration deals with land degradation and resentment of the local population surrounding growing social tension and the dramatic numbers of refugees arriving from Northern Africa.
And thus the focus expands to the European Continent and the Mediterranean Sea: Messina was one of the places that most contributed to the birth of the European Union. Sixty years after the “Messina Conference“ the opportunity appears to reflect critically on the conditions in the periphery and the obvious contradictions of such complex systems: the European Union appears paralyzed on all levels of administration by its own bureaucracy and convoluted regulations.
As director, Benjamin Geissler observed the current living conditions in Messina from divergent perspectives: with 60 shooting days and insert materials collected between 2013 and 2015, he draws an ambivalent picture of this urban landscape on human, historical and symbolic dimensions.
The quotations from the novel Horcynus Orca, conversations with the translator and impressions from Sicilian readers are interwoven with statements of the local administrators and voices of citizens from different social backgrounds. Thus the images of the seas between Scylla and Charybdis become a literary and political metaphor of the "trans-position": from one culture to another, from connections between history, politics, and territory, to the upheavals of the current social situation between traditions and the challenges of tomorrow.
Messina” is a multilayered cinematic narrative, creating links between past and present, real and symbolic interpretations of reality, and opens up compeling questions about the future of the Mediterranean region.