Terraferma (2011) – Released soon

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Terraferma (2011)

(12A) Running time: 88 mins

Director: Emanuele Crialese

Writers: Emanuele Crialese

Starring: Fillipo Pucillo, Donatella Finnochiaro, Beppe Fiorello, Mimmo Cuticchio

Reviewed by: David Gillespie, official HCF artist


Italy’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards 2012 is a bleak but engaging family drama based on a tourist dependant island. Examining the impact of the clandistini (illegal immigrants) on the lives of a Sicilian family, Terraferma is a intelligent and visually stunning feature.

Filippo (Fillipo Pucillo) is a young, Sicilian man living off the spoils of the sea with his burnt out grandfather, Ernesto (Mimo Cuticchio). Having recently lost his father and residing in a small house with his grieving mother, Giuletta (a fabulous and stunning, Donnatella Finocchiaro), the lure of selling their home and moving to the mainland becomes ever more attractive.  Making only scraps as fishermen, the family rely ever more increasingly on the tourists that flood to the island of Linosa every summer. Giuletta decides that the only way that the family can afford to put food on the table is by renting their home out to holidaymakers during the summer while they reside in their garage next door. One night when Filippo and Ernesto are working they encounter a rundown boat full of starving Ethiopean immigrants. Having been warned by the Italian authorities to refuse assistance to them, the grandfather does the humane thing and takes aboard a handful of starving and dehydrated people who have swam from their overcrowded boat. One is a heavily pregnant, young woman (visually stunning newcomer, Timnit T). The family agree to look after the woman with the agreement that she will leave soon after to find her husband who is working in the mainland. What they don’t bargain for is a persistant and fascist law enforcer and the curiosity of the young tourists renting their home next door.

Terraferma does not really tread any new ground with its focus on the class hierarchy.  Crialese does dwell a little on the relationships between the tourists who look down on the island’s locals who in turn look down on the illegal immigrants. What it lacks in content, it does make up for in stunning and memorable visuals.  Certain sequences including a holiday booze cruise and a nightmarish attack by Fillipo on some of the immigrants trying to board his rowing boat are memorable. The latter in particular brings an overwhelming tension to proceedings and reveals a hidden and ugly side to a character that up until that point appears to be amiable and sympathetic.

The acting by all the cast is first rate with excellent performances from Finnochiaro and Cuticchio.  Fillipo Pucillo is an engaging lead and carries the film comfortably on his young shoulders. His character is nieve, resourceful but powerless to take control of his life and stop the growing decay within the core of his community. His mother expresses her desire for him to leave the island and make a life for himself on the mainland. His reluctance seems to be due to his love for his home and perhaps a fear of the unknown.

Terraferma may not make anyone’s best of list by the turn of 2012 but it is likely to be remembered favourably. Well worth the visit.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About DAVID GILLESPIE 169 Articles
Fighting for clean bathrooms and restrooms since 1974.

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