Lamerica takes place in Albania around 1991 when the communist government had fallen leaving thousands of poor and working class people stuck in a devastating economic limbo while a new government gets set up.
As the film starts two businessmen are in Albania to start up a dummy company and bilk the country for cash. The two are Fiore (Michele Placido) and Gino (Enrico Lo Verso) both slick businessman who care nothing for the people they are exploiting. They have an interesting plan, which starts with them getting an old man (Carmelo Di Mazzarelli) – who has been in prison for 50 years – to be their patsy and head their fake company.
As the film unfolds their plans begin to go awry and when they need the old man to sign some more papers to seal the deal he cannot be found. This sends Gino on a search for him in the small villages of Albania. But it's a jungle out there and once he gets into the middle of the country he has a really damn tough time getting back – especially after his jeep is sabotaged.
Lamerica is directed by Gianni Amelio who has brought a contemporary look on the face of Italian neorealism. Here he ties the current (or early 1990's) problems of Albania with those of post-war Italy when many of its people struggled to survive. The film paints a fairly bleak portrait of Albania and its people. The people are presented as uneducated masses who have little personality and can do some major harm – in one scene a bunch of kids put the old man in a huge oven and light in on fire.
Yet at the heart of the film is the concept of survival and the nature humanism that can arise from such a hopeless situation. Gino learns his lesson but life for him will never be the same. Is this a good thing? Is the ending a happy one? You decide. The title refers to the allegorical America, which is the promised land that the Albanians and all downtrodden people wish to attain.
The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and looks very good. There are some splotches in the print but overall it is fine.
Audio is in Italian and Albanian Digital Dolby.
The extras are okay. They include three deleted scenes an alternative ending, which - except for one shot - is exactly the same as the film's original ending a photo album and a poster gallery.
Lamerica is a good Italian film even though it message is a bit obvious. But it captures a real humanitarian mess in a part of the world we don't hear much about. The DVD looks and sounds very good and has modest extras.