Director: Emanuele Crialese
Starring: Filippo Pucillo, Donatella Finocchiaro, Mimmo Cuticchio, Guiseppe Fiorello, Timnit T.
Language: Italian, Sicilian
Duration: 88 min.
Ernesto is an elderly fisherman who lives on the Sicilian island of Linosa. While out fishing with his grandson Filippo, he spots a young man and his pregnant mother drowning after fleeing a small boat, his conscience forces him to rescue them, and after the woman gives birth not long after they reach shore, the old man and his family become unwitting criminals as they give the immigrant family a place to stay.
Terraferma is a film directed by Emanuele Crialese. It premiered in competition at the 2011 Venice International Film Festival, winning the Special Jury prize. It was also chosen as Italy's official submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Emanuele Crialese's fourth film Terraferma, set on a seemingly idyllic Sicilian island in the height of tourist season, is a stunningly captured film that takes on one of Italy's most delicate current issues, the frequent arrival of shipwrecked immigrants upon their shores. The incredible natural beauty of the island, flanked by the bright summer sun and crystal clear blue seas, plays backdrop to a serious tale of changing times and human responsibility.
On a tiny volcanic island in the Mediterranean, Filippo (Filippo Pucillo), a twenty year old whose father died at sea, lives with his mother Giuletta (Donatella Finocchiaro) and grandfather Ernesto (Mimmo Cuticchio), an old-time fisherman still clutching to the ways of his ancestors. One day on one of their fishing trips, Ernesto and Filippo encounter a small raft full of illegal immigrants. They ignore commands from the coast guard ordering them to keep their distance and stop to save a drowning pregnant mother (played by real life shipwreck survivor, Timnit T.) and her young son. An easy decision for Ernesto who strongly believes in upholding the laws of the sea, but one that may have repercussions on the livelihood of him and his family.
It's an interesting tale and I have to admit it has the perfect setting to watch while it's cold outside. The director does well to show several contrasts, the gap between Filippo and Ernesto's generations, the newly created laws of man and the ancient laws of the sea, and of course the divide between the vacationing tourists who flock to the island by ferry during the day, and the illegals who struggle to swim to shore in the darkness of night. There are also some absolutely breathtaking images such as the opening undersea sequence, and the mass dive of tourists off of a pleasure boat that adorns the film's poster.
However the story doesn't quite succeed, with flat undeveloped characters who never truly feel real, and a narrative that wanders for what seems to be just an excuse to show more beautiful shots of the island. It also juggles too many threads for its own good, missing much of the charm or emotional punch of Le Havre, a film that deals with the same subject in a less realistic or visually impressive, but far more effective manner.
Still I have to say it's well worth seeing for its picturesque location, accomplished cinematography, and the fact it made me forget about the bone chilling snowstorm outside my window for an hour and a half. There's a pretty nice track that plays during the end credits too, a cover performed by Swiss chanteuse Sophie Hunger of Le Vent Nous Portera originally by French band Noir Désir.
— Bonjour Tristesse