Every day, more migrants die at sea. #387 is one of them. With exclusive access to their work in Italy and Greece, this film follows a team of forensic pathologists who are fighting to give these people back a name, a memory, a dignity. At their side, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is facing a new challenge: to find the families of the missing migrants, from Senegal to Afghanistan. Together they converge into the matrix of the search for identity, drawing us into a philosophical thriller.
A hoodie, pants, a belt… That’s what little is left of “Number 387”, one of the 800 migrants who perished on April 18, 2015, off the Libyan coast. On the military base in Melilli, Sicily, Cristina Cattaneo, the best forensic pathologist in Europe, leads the largest identification operation ever undertaken to date in the Mediterranean region. For the April 18, 2015 disaster, she listed at least 15 countries of origin. Patiently, Cristina inspects every garment from #387. Under her scalpel, treasures appear: a wallet, family photos, and a letter in Tigrinya, the language of Eritrea. The letter ends with three words in English: “I love you”. Who was this young man? How can his name be restored? His family found? In Alexandroupolis, northern Greece, a man, Pavlos Pavlidis, has been working on anonymous migrants’ bodies for 17 years. Alone, without means, this forensic pathologist has managed to identify dozens of people recovered from the Evros River - one of the crossing points from Turkey to Europe. Cristina and Pavlos rely on forensic science - examination of bones, 3D facial reconstruction, DNA profiling. But there’s more to it. Cristina calls identity “our most precious treasure”. To find it, they need to find the families, all across the globe. This is why both Cristina and Pavlos work with a special forensic team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), namely Jose Pablo Baraybar, a Peruvian anthropologist and human rights activist (who worked as an expert for ICTY in Bosnia) recently hired by the ICRC to design a global strategy for the identification of migrants throughout the Mediterranean region. In the field, in the smallest villages of West Africa, the Red Cross volunteers are meeting the families who lost someone and collecting every possible ante mortem information to send it back to the forensic pathologists. They are making every possible effort to restore a name to each shipwrecked number. For the ICRC, accustomed to the mass graves of Bosnia or Rwanda, the geographical scale of this search is unprecedented in history. From both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, our characters gradually converge into the matrix of the search for identity. The film embraces the promise of the forensic pathologists to help families of the missing find closure and put a name on a grave. The investigation takes the form of a philosophical thriller, where we experience the characters’ thoughts on their journey. What is so unique about this “treasure of identity”? What makes a man a man? Who are they? Who are we? Who will we be together?