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U.S. Premiere! Lampedusa: A new Italian mini-series tackles the issues surrounding a refugee crisis with humanity. Premiering April 4th exclusively on MHz Choice.

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Great war stories are about bravery and friendship on the battlefield. Lampedusa is a war story of sorts, only it’s about the people cleaning up the aftermath of war and political unrest. For thousands of souls arriving from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, their first point of European contact is Italy’s southernmost island, Lampedusa. People who live in safety can hardly imagine their harrowing journeys, and the two-part mini-series depicts the cruelty of traffickers who manage the hellish trips across the Mediterranean.

However, Lampedusa focuses mainly on the relationships forged by those who rescue and work with the refugees. As MHz fans know, nobody writes dramas about relationships like the Italians. They’re just good at depicting the connections humans can have with one another. It doesn’t hurt that their characters are so emotionally expressive – perfect for illustrating the human capacity for relationship. In this drama, it’s the informal relationships, the realistically portrayed casual friendships, which drive the plot and end up making it a relatively upbeat story.

A voiceover narration by Commander Serra, played by Claudio Amendola, frames the series. Amendola is an actor new to the MHz collection but he’s really, really interesting. He’s got the charisma of a major Hollywood star; his cragged and wounded face commands the screen whenever he’s on. I’m not sure who he evokes – Spencer Tracy, or maybe a beat up Gene Hackman. When the story begins, Serra has just arrived to the island. He’s not thrilled about the assignment, but it conveniently allows him to flee the wreckage of loss and personal failures on the mainland.

Lampedusa also brings focus to the individuals and fractured families in the boats. Rather than presenting them as a mass of desperate, anonymous people, they’re shown as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. When one individual at the refugee center experiments with petty crime, it’s put into context with his motivation, which is honorable. Context also makes a difference for Lampedusa locals who resent the refugees until an event changes their perspective.

Where is Lampedusa?

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Finally, another perk in watching this mini-series is Peppino Mazzotta (pic below) – known for his portrayal of Fazio in Detective Montalbano – in the role of an unreasonable, rigid, short-sighted commander. Not exactly a villain, but not a positive character, either. It’s a fun portrayal.

Lampedusa isn’t light viewing, but it’s ultimately an uplifting drama about beautiful things. Things like courage and perseverance and recognizing the humanity of the person next to you. Even if that person is a stranger and needs your help. Timely.

Lampedusa premieres exclusively on MHz Choice April 4th.

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