Taking its name from the brightly coloured boats used for generations by Maltese fishermen, Luzzu is a poignant examination of how modern life, red tape, and even global warming are wearing away centuries of culture and tradition.
When we first meet Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna), he’s out at sea alone, fishing for a living, and tussling with a leak in his luzzu – a traditional, multi-coloured wooden fishing boat used in Malta. With a meagre catch to sell and a boat that needs urgent attention, he struggles to make enough money to provide his wife and new-born with everything they need.
What follows is a neo-realism inspired story of the loss of traditional livelihoods, of black-market trading, and of political policy. There’s no doubt that Jesmark loves his job and is a skilled fisherman, but that isn’t enough to put food on the table like it was for the men in his family going back generations. Being principled doesn’t seem to have any benefits either.
Jesmark Scicluna is not an actor; he is a local fisherman plucked for the role by first-time director, writer and editor Alex Camilleri. But whether he is playing a part or merely being himself, he has talent. His discomfort at having to be helped out by his mother-in-law, his struggle with his principles when making important decisions, his joy at spending time with his young son – all are palpable on-screen.
Camilleri follows Jesmark closely with hand-held camera, capturing the despair, endeavour and eventual resignation of the character, and raising important issues which are key for skilled workers in traditional industries. Of Maltese descent himself, Camilleri captures a world which is swiftly disappearing, along with the heartbreak for those it touches.