Maltese-American Filmmaker Alex Camilleri spotlights non-actors in his working-class drama ‘Luzzu.’
An ensemble of non-actors, the gentle pace of everyday storytelling, and a matter-of-fact narrative come together powerfully in the Maltese film ‘Luzzu.’ Maltese-American Filmmaker Alex Camilleri embraces the creative legacy of Roberto Rossellini and neo-realism filmmaking with a beautiful, natural drama following Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna), a working-class fisherman struggling to earn enough money to support his wife and newborn son.
Showing in the World Cinema Dramatic section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, ‘Luzzu’ tells the most human of stories, the delicate balance of honoring family history with the practical needs to earn enough money to live. What’s the value of continuing the tradition of fishing if you can’t pay your baby’s medical bills?
Camilleri, an experienced editor, making his debut as a feature filmmaker, captures the everyday rhythm of life in Malta and the familiar beauty of the Maltese coasts, including the brightly painted Luzzu boats that date back to the time of the Phoenicians.
Camilleri gains strong support from a solid ensemble led by Jesmark Scicluna, who delivers a lead performance as grounded and steady as the movie around him. It’s no surprise there’s not a false or melodramatic moment throughout the film, with Scicluna portraying a character close to his true self.
Camilleri and cameraman Leo Lefevre highlight Malta’s everyday beauty over arty cinematic style via long takes and steady camerawork. Perhaps inspired by his producer Ramin Bahrani (‘Man Push Cart’), Camilleri skillfully blurs the lines between filmmaking and documentary. Sure, ‘Luzzu’ delivers a plot involving the black-market fish trade with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Yet, the focus remains fixed on small moments, intimate observations, and the human toll of losing the life built by your ancestors over many generations.
In the quiet moments closing out the movie, you wonder what’s next for Jesmark and his family. You also anticipate the next feature from Camilleri, who shows himself to be a storytelling talent worth following.
Director: Alex Camilleri
Production Company: Pellikola
Air Date: TBD
Behind the Curtain: Filmmaker Alex Camilleri stays true to the neo-realistic moviemaking style by casting ‘Luzzu’ with non-actors.