Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) spends his days fishing on the island of Malta and struggles to make ends meet, causing friction with his wife Denise (Michela Farrugia) as they try to raise their baby. With his boat (known as the luzzu) in desperate need of repairs, Jesmark must make the choice between using the little money he has to repair it or decommissioning the boat and going to the fishing black market. . As the pressure mounts, Jesmark decides to do what is necessary for his family, but at what cost?
“Luzzu” is from writer and director Alex Camilleri, and it leans into neorealism as Camilleri incorporates non-professional actors into the cast. The idea for the film came from Camilleri’s interest in the fishing industry and Malta and after spending time with Jesmark and his brother David, both real fishermen, he started filming short documentaries. This gave Camilleri an understanding of the industry and the challenges it faced, as well as the impact of EU legislation which is making it increasingly difficult for anglers to earn a living.
Casting Jesmark as her lead man, Camilleri directs a surprisingly natural and nuanced performance that explores one man’s struggle between doing what’s right and what’s necessary to support his family. As Jesmark struggles to bring money home, he faces added pressure from his wife Denise caring for their sick baby who needs medical intervention. Add to that Denise’s wealthy family who put their own pressure on Denise and Jesmark, and the situation is untenable.
Inevitably, Jesmark is drawn to the black market, seeing the opportunities it has to reverse his fortunes and the freedom it gives him to earn real money. Of course the illegal nature of what he is doing weighs on him, but the need to take care of his family is greater. It’s largely thanks to Jesmark’s low-key performance that audiences come to terms with his decisions and his roots for him. He plays the character, who is essentially a fictionalized version of himself, with surprising courage and often without saying a word, he manages to convey so much.
Camilleri impressively engages with his material, taking the viewer deep into Jesmark’s life in an effort to tell his story and make him understand what reality is like for people like him. It hits just as Camilleri intended, and there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the visual paradise depicted on screen and the harsh reality of Jesmark’s life.
Extras on the DVD include an exclusive interview with Camilleri as well as audio commentary by him. There are also test images and Jesmark Scicluna’s screen test.
“Luzzu” is a striking and unusual film that captures a slice of reality that most of us wouldn’t otherwise see. Camilleri sheds light on an important issue and in doing so will likely help the plight of anglers receive some much-needed attention. In Jesmark, he discovered a raw talent that could have a very bright future ahead of him if he chose to change his career from fishing to acting.
Cast: Jesmark Scicluna, David Scicluna, Michela Farrugia Director: Alex Camilleri Writer: Alex Camilleri Certificate: 15 Duration: 94 minutes Produced by: Panorama Pecadillo Release date: 15e August 2022 Buy ‘Luzzu’ now