Siggiewi-based fisherman and non-professional actor Jesmark Scicluna has won a prestigious award at the highly acclaimed Sundance Film Festival.
Scicluna won the Dramatic Special Jury Award in Acting for his role in Luzzu, a homegrown tale of two real fishermen who must come to terms with the hardships of their industry in the modern age, turning towards an illegal black market to sustain their livelihood.
Directed by Alex Camilleri, Luzzu became the first Maltese film to feature at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States.
Representing the World Cinema jury, Turkish producer Zeynep Atakan described Luzzu as a “beautifully recorded film, which immerses us in a powerful story and a context far away from the touristic point of view of Malta some may know.”
“The emotions that come up with this movie are honest and brought to us by the very well documented situation of the fishermen,” she said. “Acting is more than magic – it’s mystery. Amongst the biggest mysteries of acting sometimes you find people that…bring a message along with them. That is pure biography, and it transcends the body.”
Scicluna thanked Alex Camilleri and casting director Edward Said “for taking a leap of faith in me”.
He also thanked his co-stars, fellow fisherman David Scicluna and actress Michela Farrugia, the film’s producers Rebecca Anastasi, Ramin Bahrani and Oliver Mallia, his wife MariaCarla Scicluna and their four-year old daughter Cheryl.
Camilleri had gushing praise for Scicluna after he won this award.
“Developing this character over two years with me, Jesmark demonstrated extraordinary commitment to this project. His performance is not simply a great ‘non-actor’ performance; it’s a great performance, period.”
“Jesmark elevates Luzzu with a subtlety and soulfulness that reminds me of the very best screen actors, and I’m thrilled his work is being recognized at the highest levels.”
The Maltese language film has been garnering acclaim from audiences and leading film critics.
Guy Lodge from Variety called the film “an honest, affecting slab of working-class portraiture.. .The film’s striking lead is Jesmark Scicluna…his sturdy, undemonstrative but quietly potent presence largely sets the tone for the film around him.”
Wendy Ide from Screen Daily said, “the impressive feature debut from Maltese-American writer and director Alex Camilleri manages to be both self-contained, in its depiction of an embattled community, but also unexpectedly far-reaching in its themes.”
Ryan Aldrich of Screen Anarchy wrote: “A poignant and deeply touching tale of humanity… Look for this one to be in the conversation for Best International Feature a year from now.”
Luzzu was made with the support of the Malta Film Fund and the financial incentives provided by the Malta Film Commission and the Government of Malta. Sales are by Memento Films International.
Film Commissioner Johann Grech said Luzzu’s international success bodes well for the future of Malta’s film industry.