Poverty is an oppressive, depressive, stressful and corrosive state. Those who carry his burdens were born or pushed into by circumstances beyond their control. When you are poor, your life is a constant search for a way out.
Many of the working poor are only one step away from disaster. Illness, a car accident, and higher food and housewares prices can all take their toll. With these problems comes anger and disappointment as the poor see a growing gap between the rich and themselves. All of these aspects of poverty are illustrated in this gripping film.
Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) is a Maltese fisherman whose father and grandfather before him loved their jobs – going out to sea in their beautiful hand-painted boats, fishing the traditional way with nets and lines, sorting and cleaning their catch and selling it at the local market. Although tradition has its place in the village, it cannot hold back the troubles that hit Jesmark.
First, the fish shortage is due to larger fishing operations in the area. Then his beloved boat – a Luzzu inherited from his father – has to be repaired. Then he and his wife (Michela Farrugia) learn that their young son is not doing as well as he should and that he needs an expensive diet. When she asks her middle-class parents for help, Jesmark experiences self-doubt and feelings of guilt because she cannot provide for his family.
Not many films deal with the plight of the poor people who are not on our radar, like these Maltese fishermen. Here we notice the difficult choice Jesmark has to make. Is he still trying to make a living as a fisherman, or is he accepting a payment from the European Union for the closure of his Luzzu and going to work for the very same fishery he despises?
Writer, director, and editor Alex Camilleri has first filmed a heartbreaking drama about a man’s desperate scramble to raise the money he needs to pay his bills. In this story, the director sees a struggle between tradition and modernity. “It seems that every family has a Luzzo,” he notes. Perhaps that is why we were so sad when we saw the scene in the trusty junkyard where we saw the remains of hundreds of Luzzus, whose eyes seemed painted on their arches, begging us to save them.
One of many surprises in Luzzu is the appearance of the priest who blesses the boats in the harbor and Jesmarks ashore after it has been repaired. He brings light and a touch of grace to a community whose life is drained by external forces such as government quotas, corrupt inspectors and the politics of the European Union.