Named after the small boats used by independent Maltese fisherman, Luzzu is a scintillating portrait of tradition eroded by bureaucracy, big business and corruption.
Real-life fisherman Jesmark Scicluna plays a variation of himself, a man continuing in his father’s footsteps, working daily on his beloved, brightly painted luzzu, which is desperately in need of work that Jesmark can barely afford to cover. The EU’s rules on what can be fished and the impact of large-scale trawler fishing have impacted him heavily. He has a boss (Stephen Buhagiar) who appears to be short-changing him and his girlfriend Denise (Michela Farrugia), with whom he has an ailing son, believes he should give up his profession and take a healthy subsidy from the EU. Instead, Jasmark attempts to navigate his way through the black market, with the aid of an Asian labourer (Uday Maclean), but he underestimates how dangerous those waters can be.
Produced by Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger), whose early features Man Push Cart and Chop Shop Luzzu resembles, Maltese-American filmmaker Alex Camilleri’s drama is stunningly shot. Heavier on plot than most films that blur the line between documentary and fiction, Luzzu nevertheless remains a lean, tautly directed film with a stunning art-reflecting-life performance by Scicluna. Drawing on Italian Neorealism and the later, southern Italian films of Roberto Rossellini (in particular 1950’s Stromboli), this is an impressive and suspenseful debut.