NO MAN IS AN ISLAND (2016, Belgium)


NO MAN IS AN ISLAND || 2016, Belgium || Documentary || Directed by – Tim De Keersmaecker / Written by – Tim De Keersmaecker, Anna Lyuten || Running time: 70 mins.


“No Man Is an Island” by Tim De Keersmaecker (2016, Belgium)

No Man is an Island is a documentary that takes its camera in Lampedusa, a perennial epicentre in the migration crisis. This is a place where many migrants looking end up in the search for a better life, and where more often than not, they end up trapped in a Limbo state. This is certainly the case of the two men whose stories the documentary focuses on. Omar, a 21 year old from Tunisia, is offered a job as an interpreter by a doctor at a local detention centre. Adam is a 16-year-old male from Ghana, taken in by a local hotelkeeper’s family, and hired as a valet.

Both are effectively treated as members of the family. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the relationships between the young men and their tutors are a little more complicated than that. For instance, as a sense of entitlement on the part of the tutors starts to become more obvious. The widely non-judgemental style of the film is also merciless in showing an underlying ignorance, in which Adam and Omar are likened to household pets. These statements are not meant with any harm, but are nevertheless very insightful.

What is clear is that on the surface Adam and Omar should consider themselves lucky, but are very much unable to feel content. Ultimately, however, it is up to the viewers to come up with their own conclusions.

It is also very clear that director Tim De Keersmaecker’s determination to focus on his two pivotal narratives leaves little room for a broader examination of the island of Lampedusa and its heated atmosphere. In other words, most people unfamiliar with Lampedusa will walk out of the screening having learnt very little about it. Even the culture clash it represents, most prominently through religious costums, is very superficial and sparse.

Occasionally, the film gets lost in lengthy montages, cinematic collages of everyday images of the island, which is perhaps why the film is keen on building a reputation as a “creative documentary,” which is a trivial term to begin with. In fact, its stylization is not central to the filmmaking for that the director adopts, but together with a lack of significant representation, No Man is an Island can be quite an unrewarding experience. – 2/5


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