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The Bureaucracy of Angels records the demolition of 100 migrant boats in Sicily in the winter of 2016. These boats arrived laden with refugees from North Africa and while their human cargo were either sent home or absorbed into the asylum system, the boats themselves were never returned to their owners, laying beached on the concrete forecourt of Porto Pozallo in Sicily. The artists filmed the rescue missions by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) foundation off the coast of Libya as well as the destruction of the boats left to decay once the migrant journeys have been made, in a vast shipping grave yard in Porto Pozallo.
The film is narrated by the hydraulic jaws of the digger charged with the job of destroying these boats, tearing them apart into their constituent parts of timber and metal, a process that took forty days to complete. The digger appears in the narrow corridors of the boatyard, on the open sea and in the midst of a rescue operation off the coast of Libya, as a Cantastoria or ‘singing storyteller’, recounting the Sicilian ballad ‘Terra ca nun senti’. The song speaks of the fear and pain associated with immigration to and from Europe’s most southerly territory over the last 150 years. The original music ‘Terra ca nun senti’ is by Alberto Piazza and performed by Rosa Balistreri. It plays alongside a new composition by John Woolrich performed by the London Sinfonietta.