Io Capitano

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) trains his camera on the emigration experience from Africa in “Io Capitano.” It is a jarring and intense experience that is almost unrelenting and very unsettling. Nevertheless, the movie, one of this year’s Oscar nominees for best International Film, is excellent.

Seydou (Seydou Sarr) and Moussa (Moustapha Fall) are two Senegalese teens with dreams of becoming musicians and going to Europe. Seydou’s mom (Khady Sy), understandably so, is horrified, fearing that her son will get killed or die crossing the endless and punishing Sahara.

Seydou has money buried in the back of the house for a crossing with Moussa.

He does not tell his mother.

Seydou and Moussa conceal the money within their anal cavities. They also hire underground men to shuttle them across the border. The sands of the dessert are without mercy and the film is unflinching in its details, which flirt with the category of horror. Days upon days, the two endure panic, thirst, and pain. Then they are discovered by a band of Libyan gangsters and thrown in prison, unless they pay ransom. The group of men, women and children are beaten, whipped, tortured, hung by their ankles, and trussed like meat in a butcher shop.

Moussa is hauled away by gangsters, while Seydou is sold to a building contractor.

In unvarnished matter of fact style, the film echoes Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express” (1978). While the film is visually arduous and challenging, the unbreakable bond between Seydou and Moussa shines through, in spite of all obstacles. Their friendship is as powerful as Romeo and Juliet.

The finale is just as apprehensive and claustrophobic as much of this film, and you will be on the edge of your seat.

Write Ian at

Ratings & Comments