The classic Maltese luzzu has one big eye on each side of its front, a centuries-old tradition connected to good health and a way to manifest protection from the many dangers of the sea. The men who brave the open waters in these small wooden boats are deeply connected not only to the practice of fishing, but to the bridge it builds between generations, this ever-repeating cycle a steady foundation for this small community in Malta.

One of many men to inherit a colourful luzzu, Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) wears his pride like a badge. Whenever his boat touches the water, he’s accompanied by his father, his grandfather and the ones who came before them. This profound connection to his past, however, is also what keeps him from considering the possibility of a different future. With the arrival of his son, Jesmark is forced to drop his rose-tinted glasses; as his priorities shift, fishing, once his whole life, is no longer able to offer him a living. 

The first Maltese film to ever screen at Sundance, Luzzu is a tender homage to a struggling culture. In order to build the story, director Alex Camilleri spent two years shadowing real-life fishermen Jesmark and David, absorbing all traits of their craft to create a fictional tale that beautifully mirrors reality. In his portrayal of a man at breaking point, trapper-turned-actor Scicluna is mesmerising, resilience and desperation fighting under his rough countenance as he battles with long-ingrained values. 

“Now, if you change every piece of the boat, is it the same boat? And, if it’s not, what does it become?” ponders Jesmark. It is a fitting reflection to conclude Luzzu, a brilliant exercise on verité that perfectly balances the calmness of summer waves and the brutality of life.



CAST: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna 

DIRECTOR: Alex Camilleri

WRITER: Alex Camilleri

SYNOPSIS: A man risks everything to provide for his wife and newborn son by entering Malta’s black-market fishing industry.