Terraferma tackles the social responsibility and mortality of immigration for fisherman on the small island of Linosa in the Mediterranean Sea. Filippo is a young fisherman who works with his grandfather on his fishing boat. The fishing industry does not fare well on the Island which has started to focus more on tourism as the main source of income. One day the boat comes across a raft of refugees. They call into the Coast Guard as it is illegal to assist the refugees. However, several people jump into the water and start swimming towards the boat. When Filippo’s grandfather follows the code of the sea and lets them onto the boat, he sets Filippo down a path that tests everything he believes in. Since they bring the refugees to the mainland, the local police confiscate the family’s boat which was the only source of income. Filippo now works for his uncle, who is a savvy businessman with the tourists. He tries to stear Filippo away from his grandfather’s old school way of life. A side story involves Filippo’s family taking in a pregnant refugee woman and her child. Filippo’s mother, still dealing with the death of her husband, initially rude, bonds with the woman and tries to sneak her and her family to the mainland.

This movie is also a coming of age movie that focuses on mainly on Filippo as he changes quickly during the summer. You can tell Filippo has led a very sheltered life on the island and he is forced to deal with and learn from some very serious issues. The hardest scene comes after Filippo refuses to help several refugees while on a date at sea. Following this incident, several bodies of dead refugees are found lining the shore of the island. Filippo obviously feels guilty for not assisting them but is conflicted because of the persecution the local police place on his family. The guilt leads him to take matters into his own hands when the local police start inspecting the only ferry off the island for refugees.

Terraferma looks at the impact of immigration and willingness of people to help.  Because the legal constraints that the locals face, the ethical dilemma that they face is much harder.