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The prize for authenticity: Luzzu is one of the best films this year

Luzzu, Maltese-American filmmaker Alex Camilleri's feature-length debut, is a rare glimpse into the world of traditional fishing in Malta.


Produced by Ramin Bahrani, the film depicts the life of one Jesmark Saliba, a fisherman at the end of his line, struggling to make the money he needs for his newborn son, Aiden, as he plies his trade.


The film is through-and-through authentic: there isn't any glossing over or unnecessary adaptation. Some scenes are just a number of veteran fishermen sharing anecdotes and telling stories - there is some stuttering, technical speak, dialect, no acting. It is a group of fishermen having conversations, filmed for our viewing pleasure.


When Luzzu is funny, it is genuine. Even when it is touching and enraging. It is a working-class portraiture of an uneducated man strongly tied to tradition, the brightly-coloured luzzu in need of severe repairs having been passed down from generation to generation.


The film feels like a docudrama. The lead, played by Jesmark Scicluna, is quiet and undemonstrative but still fills the screen with his presence, his brooding, his marmoreal features as he looks into the distance. As a viewer, you know that Jesmark's mind is currently flipping through all the options available to him.


The blackmarket is one of them.


We watch Jesmark infiltrate the seedy underworld of the fishing industry. He makes some money on the side and comes to terms with the corruption that has always been right under his nose.


In many ways, this is a coming-of-age tale, as we see Jesmark shed his innocence. He departs from tradition and scraps his ancestral luzzu, only to become a full-time pawn in the underworld game. It's more lucrative. And his son, Aiden, needs it.


Luzzu is a near-perfect film about priority and heart. It is one of the best films of the year - an unassuming depiction of a life that is hardly explored on an island that still values tradition.


Alex Camilleri has done a fantastic job in capturing the detail, the sense of place, the realities of this life without any hammering or excess. It is as simple as a fishing line and as colourful as the garish luzzu, Jesmark's wandering home.


And Luzzu is a fine picture of home.

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