The quiet traditional life of a small Sicilian island is challenged when a boatload of illegal immigrants arrives, forcing the inhabitants to choose between the ‘law of the sea’ and the prospect of being punished for saving them from drowning. This battle between the local carabinieri and the fishermen who represent an older, more humane ethos impacts on all members of a struggling local family. Do they sell out what they know to be right so that they may eventually fit into the new world?
Ernesto is an elderly fisherman on Linosa where fishermen are punished for saving boat people from the sea and, back on shore, letting them go, because this amounts to facilitating illegal immigration. The fishing business has gone into a slump and many on the island have either opened businesses catering to tourists or moved elsewhere, though his 20-year-old grandson Filippo works with him. Ernesto and his family become unwitting criminals when they choose to help a family with nowhere to turn in this drama from Italian filmmaker Emanuele Crialese. Even though Terraferma takes place on the other side of the world, it is, unfortunately, exceedingly relevant to local audiences. A beautiful, engrossing film with heart, soul, humour and a powerful humanistic vision.