In Matteo Garron’s Academy Award-nominated Io Capitano, a sixteen-year-old Senegalese kid is asked to sail a boat full of passengers from Libya to Italy across the Mediterranean Sea. The boy, Seydou, is understandably scared and doesn’t want to take the responsibility, especially after what he has had to endure in life so far. You would think things are not going to go well for Seydou and his cousin Moussa, but the film pleasantly surprises you with its very uplifting climax, which essentially makes you realize that this story deserved an ending like that. Io Capitano translates to “I’m the Captain,” but before Seydou reaches that point, he goes through hell. We get to see a glimpse of Seydou and Moussa’s lives in Dakar, Senegal, which doesn’t look that hopeful.
Why Do Seydou And Moussa Want To Go To Europe?
For young teenagers like Seydou and Moussa, Europe is like a dreamland. From music to football, that’s the land where all life is. It’s not that these two don’t have any love for their homeland; in fact, Seydou is very close with his mother, but their dreams of going to Europe and living a better life are too big to be contained. Among the two of them, Moussa is the excited one who is responsible for planting the bug of journeying to Europe in Seydou’s head. Seydou is very much into the idea of fleeing home one day, but he does make a futile attempt to convince his mother. Before leaving, Seydou and Moussa participate in this ritual to take blessings from their ancestors.
What Happens On The Journey?
From the very beginning, it becomes evident that the journey Seydou and Moussa are embarking on is not going to be an easy one; in fact, it’s quite the contrary. They even get discouraged by this local man named Sisko, who’s sort of a planner for the trip. That fails to prevent them from boarding the bus to Agadez, Niger. But before that, they have to cross the Mali border, for which they need to acquire fake passports. Seydou and Moussa have no other option but to spend 100 dollars on it, which concerns Seydou as their savings for the trip are pretty limited.
The fake passport fails to help them cross the border, but some more money does. Once the border is crossed, the next goal is to somehow reach Tripoli, i.e., the capital city of Libya. What awaits then in the middle of the terribly cruel Sahara desert are the Libyan rebel groups, along with the mafias. Not to mention, there are so many people who would deceive all these poor people who are trying to get to Europe at any given moment. Then there are suggestions, like the only way to protect your money is by shoving it up in the only place where nobody would look.
Seydou and Moussa soon get a car after making a deal where 600 dollars would take them to Italy after they reach Tripoli. The car abandons them and several other passengers in the middle of the desert, where they get hitched with a guide who will take them to Libya on foot. An elderly woman gives up in the desert, and despite trying his best, Seydou has to leave her behind. In a scene that breaks your heart, Seydou imagines holding her hand and wondering why the woman is literally flying. But we can all assume what really happened to women in the middle of the desert, without food or water.
The biggest blow in the journey comes for Seydou when Moussa gets detained and taken by the Syrian rebels for hiding his money up his you-know-where. Seydou is also thrown into the prison, along with so many others. After going through barbaric torture for a few days, Seydou manages to get a job as a builder, thanks to Martin, an older man whose goal is the same as his: reaching Italy. Martin takes Seydou under his wing, and thanks to their tireless work as builders, their employer finally lets them go to Tripoli and even pays for the journey.
Do Seydou And Moussa Reunite?
I bet y’all thought Moussa wouldn’t survive and Seydou would never see his beloved cousin in this god-forsaken life. But Seydou never stops searching for Moussa, and he even gives up on the chance of safely traveling to Italy with Martin. He chooses to stay in Tripoli and scours through the Senegalese camps in order to find Moussa. To get by, he picks up a contract job. The first big win in Io Capitano comes when Seydou finally manages to find Moussa, although the latter is in a horrible state, both emotionally and physically. Moussa has managed to escape, but he couldn’t avoid getting shot in the leg. As a result, he’s in danger of losing his leg, and the only way out is to go to the hospital. Sadly, Libyan hospitals don’t admit black people, so the only solution is somehow getting to Italy. Moussa wants to get back to Senegal, as he has given up on life, but after surviving everything life has thrown at him, Seydou is determined to not give up. But the proposition he gets is nothing short of ludicrous. Since he can’t pay the money for two, he has to sail the boat to Italy. What makes things worse? Neither does he have any experience with riding a boat nor does he know how to swim.
Does Seydou Manage To Get Moussa And Everyone Else To Safety?
The thing about Io Capitano is that the film follows the template of an underprivileged, down-on-his-luck nobody trying to win an uphill battle, but instead of making the hero tragically lose by the end, it lets him win for a change. And it doesn’t look illogical by any means, as throughout the movie, the character of Seydou does show signs of the kind of person he is—kind and compassionate. Only such people can truly become the leaders of those who are seeking the light.
The only reason Seydou tries to refuse the job of de facto captain of the boat is because he doesn’t want to kill someone by accidentally drowning the boat. But he is in no position to make a choice like that considering the situation he’s in. So he does take hold of the boat’s helm, with the hope of somehow making it to Sicily, Italy.
And the journey on the water is as hard as it gets to be. There are women and children, even a pregnant woman, a considerable number of sea-sick people, and a bunch of people who were actually hiding inside the engine room. In the middle of all the chaos, Seydou tries to sail the boat and help the pregnant woman. Seeing her bleed, he stops the boat and tries to call for help, but that doesn’t work out. Seeing no other choices, Seydou promises everyone that he will get them to Italy. The most significant part is Seydou telling everyone that no one is going to die. And then, after tirelessly sailing the boat for days with his injured cousin right beside him, Seydou spots land. This was Italy for certain, unlike last time, when he mistook an oil rig for land. He took the journey in order to find a better life for himself and Moussa, but ends up saving so many people by taking them to the land of dreams. We don’t know if Moussa will eventually survive, or how life would be for Seydou in Italy, or whether or not he will see Martin again. But for now, Seydou, screaming in joy, wearing the same worn-out FC Barcelona jersey he has been wearing throughout the film, is going to stay as one of the greatest images of modern-day cinema, for me. Seydou, the boat captain, is a champion. That’s where Io Capitano is choosing to leave us, and we couldn’t really ask for more.