No News review – cruelty of waiting for refugee rescue ship stuck in Malta

Lennart Hüper’s sombre film follows the resilience of the captain and crew of Lifeline, a ship that has been impounded in Malta, while politics plays out

Recurring throughout Lennart Hüper’s sombre documentary are images of the vast, deep ocean, whose rippling surface hums with an ominous melancholy. Against a gloomy soundscape of crashing waves and beeping boat signals, staggering facts flash up on the screen, stating the numbers of Libyan refugees who have died or gone missing at sea as they attempt to escape from their war-torn country and detention camps to Europe.

Meanwhile, Lifeline, a civilian ship that carries out rescue missions for refugees, has been impounded on the coast of Malta for months, as its captain Claus-Peter Reisch endures fines and charges of commanding an improperly registered ship. Exposing how the arduous legal ordeal is a red herring in a political unwillingness to aid refugees, the film documents the inspiring resilience with which Reisch and his crew maintain the day-to-day operation of Lifeline while seeking legislative changes to allow government-sanctioned aid for refugees stranded at sea. At one point, Lifeline supporters hand out leaflets during the festive season to holiday shoppers; the matter-of-fact scenes of seasonal jollity feel especially heartbreaking when, right on their doorsteps, the same simple luxury is denied to displaced Libyan refugees.

Much of No News revolves around the unsettling monotony of waiting. As the Lifeline crew patiently prepare their meals every day, the waste of resources underlines the cruelty of bureaucracy. The Libyan refugees are also waiting for something that might never come, a longing hemmed in by death, violence and uncertainty.

• No News is available on 25 April on True Story.


Phuong Le

The GuardianTramp

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