Kino Lorber has acquired North American rights to Alex Camilleri’s feature debut, “Luzzu,” which world-premiered at Sundance where it won the Special Jury Award for its lead actor, Jesmark Scicluna. The movie is being sold by Memento Intl.
Penned, directed and edited by Camilleri, “Luzzu” revolves around Jesmark, a struggling fisherman on the island of Malta who is forced to risk everything by entering the world of black market fishing in order to provide for his wife and newborn baby.
“Luzzu” was the first Maltese feature to compete in a major international festival. The film was praised by critics for the poignant performances of non-actors and professionals in lead roles. The movie is produced by Rebecca Anastasi, Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger,” “99 Homes”), Camilleri and Oliver Mallia.
Kino Lorber will be releasing the film later this year. “Nothing is more exciting than to see the emergence of a new filmmaking talent, and I suspect ‘Luzzu’ is just the first of many great things to come from Alex Camilleri,” said Kino Lorber’s senior VP Wendy Lidell.
“‘Luzzu’ shimmers with a heart and humanity that is reminiscent of the Dardenne brothers and Vittorio De Sica, awash with the beautiful colors of the Maltese seaside and telling a universal story that will touch anyone who sees it,” Lidell added.
Rolling off Sundance, Memento Intl. also scored deals in key territories around the world, including in the U.K. (Peccadillo), France (Epicentre), China (Hugoeast), Spain (Wanda), Scandinavia (Edge), Portugal (Legendmain), Greece (Weirdwave), former Yugoslavia (Kino Mediteran) and Eastern Europe (HBO).
“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see the response to ‘Luzzu’ — while the setting of Malta is unique, the theme of weighing tradition against survival is universal,” said Camilleri, a Maltese-American filmmaker.
“I can’t wait for audiences to connect with our phenomenal cast and the rich world of Malta’s fishermen,” added Camilleri.
Camilleri is an alum of both the Sundance and Film Independent labs who was a film editor on “Keep the Change” and “Blood Kin.” Camilleri has worked closely with Bahrani for over a decade, including as an associate editor on his film “99 Homes.”
Filming took place in Malta and was made with the support of Screen Malta and the financial incentives provided by the Malta Film Commission and the government of Malta. The North American deal was negotiated by Lidell for Kino Lorber and Mathieu Delaunay, head of dales of Memento Intl., on behalf of the filmmakers.
By Elsa Keslassy for Variety