This drama was the official Italian entry in the 1995 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It is set in Albania in 1991 after the fall of the Communist regime. Fiore, a seasoned con man from Italy, arrives with Gino, his young apprentice, to set up a shoe factory that will never open. They designate Spiro, a confused old man in prison, as chairman of the board. While Fiore returns to Italy to get funds from the government for the project, Gino tries to track down the deranged Spiro who keeps running off. Soon he finds himself in the midst of a tide of penniless, homeless Albanians who are on their way to the port where they hope to get a ship to Italy, the promised land. The arrogant and cruel Gino is divested of his fancy car, sunglasses, clothes, and passport in a free fall into poverty.
Director Gianni Amelio has made a mesmerizing film about the political disruptions in Europe that have left millions of men, women, and children without hope in a world cruelly divided into the very rich and the very poor. Gino's experiences in Albania are like a descent into hell. Despite all the confusion, Spiro, the elder, maintains his last shred of dignity and the dream of a better life. Lamerica will take your breath away and soften your heart toward the plight of refugees all over the world.