The story of European immigrants making the long, exhausting journey to Ellis Island, then submitting themselves to the physical and psychological tests of the day that would unlock America's "golden door," has always been an epic tale. Yet in this emotionally resonant film from N.Y.U. graduate Emanuele Crialese, director of the acclaimed Respiro: Grazia's Island, there is a feeling of being on intimate terms with the characters as they make their momentous turn-of-the-century voyage to the New World. A poor man from rural Sicily, Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) decides his family must emigrate to America. Against his mother's wishes, he sells his livestock and buys shoes and clothes for himself and his sons. Joining them on the harrowing voyage in third-class steerage aboard a tremendously overcrowded ship are a pair of village girls betrothed to men they have never seen in America, and a mysterious, well-spoken Englishwoman, Lucy (Charlotte Gainsbourg), traveling solo. The emotional tension builds as they at last approach the new land, rendered invisible by a shroud of thick fog, and debark on Ellis Island. The film, visually striking throughout, is layered with Salvatore's animated fantasies of America as a land of miracles with enormous vegetables and money growing on trees. Italy's 2006 Oscar® submission and winner of six awards at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, this is a must-see.
A Rome-based director of Sicilian origin, EMANUELE CRIALESE was born in 1965. In 1991, he moved to America to study directing at New York University, and after making various shorts, he shot his first feature Once We Were Strangers, which was selected for the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Crialese's second feature, Respiro, was the winner of two awards at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Set on the rugged, sun-drenched island of Lampedusa, the film features an outstanding performance from actress Valeria Golino. Enthusiastically acclaimed in France, Respiro was sold to over 30 territories worldwide and became an enormous hit in Italy.