EUFF Interview: Rebecca Cremona Talks “SIMSHAR”

Credit: 'Brian Grech for Style'
Credit: ‘Brian Grech for Style’

The issue with migrants and refugees is big in Europe. And now it’s bigger than ever before. This is why the interest in Rebecca Cremona’s SIMSHAR doubles with regards to this issue, but from a different angle. And this time it is not why the refugees have to leave their homeland, but rather why they can’t be rescued, if they, for instance, are found drifting in the Mediterranean Sea. One single scene from the film defines the whole story, which was cleverly captured by the filmmaker, which was inspired by a true story.

In spite of Rebecca Cremona being in Malta, I simply could not disregard this film and the issue unfolding in it. I got an opportunity to interview the filmmaker over the phone, which I must say, was extremely interesting and educational by all means.

MOVIEMOVESME: What was exactly in this story that moved you so deeply that you decided to make a film out of it?

Rebecca Cremona: Well, I talked to Simon, the survivor of the fishing boat and there were a lot of interesting things about his story. He told me all the details and the press at the time covered the tragedy. I assumed they weren’t seen because they were at sea but by chance I found out that they were actually seen. In our conversation we discussed that it was not a very large sea, it had a lot of traffic. He then told me that they were seen but weren’t saved. I found that so unbelievable that they were seen but weren’t saved. So then I started doing research on other people who work at the sea: the fishermen, patrollers and people who have boats for leisure and all of them actually had stories. There were stories of how fishermen rescued some migrants but their boats were then grounded on the suspicion of smuggling. That’s one thing that prompted me to say, “I have to tell the story.”

MOVIEMOVESME: So do you think that it was because of the Insurance company that the man from the other boat did not want to rescue Simon, his still alive son, and a black man, mistaking them for African immigrants?

Rebecca Cremona: This is the reason why I decided to base this film on two true stories. The second true story was the story of the person who rescued the migrants stuck because none wanted to take them in. The intention was that that story would give the context of issue at sea at the moment and the complexity now in play when someone rescues someone at sea. So this is why I have a second storyline going on and of course the story of the captain who chooses to pick them up because of the context. My intention was that because of the complexity one shouldn’t stop averting a bad thing. At the end of the day we know this is happening so often.

MOVIEMOVESME: There was a scene where you can see refugees behind a fence in a refugee camp and another scene of the boat with the Turkish guy and refugees. Were those refugees real and if yes where did you find them?

Rebecca Cremona: Yes, a lot of the people who are working in the film are actually playing themselves. We had a lot of fishermen who played themselves and also the majority of the refugees are actually asylum seekers. So it was very interesting while filming because when we spoke to the refugees about the scenes they talked about what actually happened to them in that situation. So they provided inputs which was very valuable.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the casting process?

Rebecca Cremona: We had people playing themselves, we had people with very minimal experience in acting like the children who had taken a couple of acting classes, then we had professionals actors and I think that was good for us in order to get more genuine performances. They made difficult scenes like the ones in water very genuine. That’s why we had a mix of type of actors. We don’t have a large pool of professional actors because there just wasn’t a lot of work for them. The film was much about multi-culturalism, so it also reflected in the cast and the crew.

MOVIEMOVESME: What in your opinion could be done to avoid something similar happening in the future?

Rebecca Cremona: I think some of the problems come from the way we think about this issue, in terms of statistics and in terms of numbers and in terms of problems; we don’t think about this issue in terms of human beings. I think we need to discuss the migration issue within the press on policy level, in terms of people and human beings, not in terms of numbers, then I think there would be a difference in how it will be approached. Also by telling the story I was hoping to show more humane aspects. We are telling the story from the migrant’s point of view to get to know more about their experience. When we get access to the stories that they have and to view these issues from a more humane point of view, I think those things would help to avert something like this happening.

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