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Nashville Film Festival – Luzzu (2021) – Review: Alex Camilleri Has Crafted a Fantastic Film That You Should Check Out

October 5, 2021

Quick thoughts – Grade – A – Directed, edited, and written by Alex Camilleri, Luzzu tells the story of a man forced to decide between making an meager living as a fisherman, who is always dealing with his constantly leaking Luzzu (a traditional wooden fishing boat that has been in his family for generations), or working as a low-level henchmen for a shady black market fishery. 

A big thank you to the Nashville Film Festival for the screener.

What’s wonderful about Luzzu is that you can feel the sweat, and almost smell the fish guts that are stuck to the shirt of Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna – very natural and watchable), a down on his luck fisherman who can’t support his family with the meager earnings he makes while working as an independent fisherman in Malta. At his core, Jesmark seems like a decent man, but his dedication to an antiquated lifestyle have left him scrambling for money, unable to feed his young child, and constantly annoyed at his in-laws, who pay his families bills behind his back. It’s a tough situation, does he continue his family’s trade as a fisherman in Malta, or does he start working on commercial trawlers that rampage the coastal areas, and take money out of the pockets of local fishermen?

Luzzu is a thrilling movie that makes you emotionally invested in wood boats, fishing lines, and cheap baby formula that gives infants gas. The majority of the credit goes to Alex Camilleri, who won national funding in Malta, and used his training at the Sundance and Film Independent labs to create a fantastic debut film. To prepare for the film, Camilleri, whose parents immigrated from Malta, spent two years there, where he researched the fishing industry and interviewed fishermen to nail down the world. Also, his experience as an editor shows how he can take everyday experiences such as selling fish, or repairing fishing lines, and make them feel exciting and vibrant. The film never feels precious, or overly manicured, and instead feels wildly authentic (bear in mind, I know nothing about fishing in Malta), and confident, as it focuses on a man having to grow up, and realize times are changing, as commercials business and black market ventures are making his life impossible to sustain.

The cinematography by Léo Lefèvre adds to the level of authenticity as there’s a fly on the wall aesthetic that constantly follows Jesmark around as he’s seemingly always late for something. The 1.85 :1 adds a nice widescreen feel to the movie, and the Arri Alexa Mini does a great job collecting natural light, and making the coastlines look romantic and worth fighting for.

To top everything off, the central performance from Scicluna is excellent, as he pulls off the struggle of always being one step behind. You believe how much he loves his son, who requires special dietary needs, and he clearly loves his wife, who is beginning to lose faith in him, and is tired of being the one who makes the money. Scicluna was hired two years before the movie started filming, and his experiences allowed Camilleri to finetune his script, and work around Scicluna’s strengths as an actor, and active fisherman, who looks comfortable on a boat, and knows the world inside out. It’s no surprise that his performance won him the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. 

If you’re looking for an excellent and authentic film that makes you feel like you are on the Luzzu with the characters, you should check out Luzzu.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. rdfranciswriter permalink
    October 8, 2021 7:53 am

    This is why I enjoy just clicking around the Word Press plains. I’d never know about this film without this review. Just a mighty fine site with a great mix of film you have, here. I mean, this AND Michael Pare’s Bad Moon in one sitting? That’s some pretty cool reading!

    • October 8, 2021 7:59 am

      Thank you so much! We love highlighting a unique mix of films. We appreciate you reading our reviews.

      • rdfranciswriter permalink
        October 8, 2021 8:30 am

        Oh, you are unique. That’s no understatement!

  2. rdfranciswriter permalink
    October 8, 2021 7:56 am

    Speaking of Malta and films shot in exotic locals: I reviewed Gozo by Miranda Bowen (BBC America’s Killing Eve) a few months ago, and that film knocked my socks off. It’s a film you may want to check out, as well.

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