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In the sacred city of Varanasi, life and death flow together on the River Ganges. Here people wash the sins from their bodies, do their laundry, and prepare the dead for cremation—or just throw them in the river. Filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi came to Varanasi in 1996, got on a small boat, and let the ferryman take him on a tour. As the boat glides on the muddy water, he keeps filming and doesn’t interrupt the ferryman’s stream of relevant, sarcastic, and amusing commentary. To the sound of prayer and song, a diverse cast of characters emerges from the coils of smoke, only to disappear again: a priest who awaits his last day, a desperate Italian tourist in search of pasta alternatives, and a gravedigger who collects gold teeth. Behind the ceaseless commotion, there is a serenity that can only come from complete acceptance.

With the support of the Italian Institute of Culture.

Previous Festivals: Locarno International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival

Official Website

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Screening Schedule:
  • Thu 01.07 | 14:15 | Cinematheque 2
  • Tue 06.07 | 14:45 | Cinematheque 1
  • Watch online | The film will be available From July 1st until July 31st

Gianfranco Rosi, born in Asmara, in Eritrea, with Italian and American nationality, after attending university in Italy, moves to New York and graduates from the New York University Film School in 1985. Following a journey to India in 1993, he produces and directs Boatman, about a boatman on the banks of the Ganges, which he shows with success at various international festivals including the Sundance Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival. After the short film Afterwords, that was shown at the 57th Venice International film Festival, in 2008 in Slab City, California, he shoots the documentary Below Sea Level about community of homeless people who live on a desert plain 40 meters below sea level: the film wins Best Film in the Horizons section of the Venice International Festival and at Doc/It. It also takes the Grand Prix, the Prix des Jeunes al Cinéma du Réel, the prize for best film at the One World Film Festival in Prague, the Vittorio De Seta Prize at Bif&st 2009 and is nominated for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards 2009. In 2010 he shoots El Sicario – Room 164, a film interview from a story by Charles Bowden about a hitman on the run from Mexican drug cartels. The film wins the Fipresci Award at the Venezia Film International Festival, the Doc/It prize for Best Documentary of the Year, Best Film at DocLisboa in 2010 and at Doc Aviv in 2011.
In 2013 he wins the Golden Lion at Venice with Sacro GRA, the film where he tells the story of hitherto unseen humanity that lives around the Grande Raccordo Anulare (the ring road highway) that circles Rome. It is the first time a documentary is awarded the Golden Lion. In 2016, Rosi wins the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Festival with Fuocoammare, stories from the island of Lampedusa, about its inhabitants, fishermen and migrants. While in Italy it wins the Italian Golden Globe, receives two nomination for the David of Donatello Awards and wins a Nastro d’Argento, Fire at Sea (its international title) will bring Lampedusa, an island that is a symbol of migration, to the whole world at festivals and in movie theaters, gaining further recognition with a win at the European Film Awards and a nomination for the Oscar for Best Documentary.

2010 EL SICARIO - ROOM 164

Production Company: 21 One Productions
Editing: Jacopo Quadri
Sound Design: John Gurrin


Supporters & Broadcasters: Italian Institute of Culture