Set on the tiny isle of Linosa, halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, “Terraferma” follows a crusty old sailor, Ernesto (Mimmo Cuticchio), and his naive grandson Filippo (Filippo Pucillo), who still run an old fishing boat. Filippo’s widowed mother, Giulietta (Sicilian beauty Donatella Finocchiaro), decides — like many of her neighbors — that renting out rooms to tourists and offering sightseeing cruises might better pay the bills.

When Ernesto and Filippo rescue some drowning refugees from an overloaded raft, the cops shut them down for having aided “illegal immigration.” The conflicted Filippo is then hit with a profound moral dilemma when he comes across some more desperate refugees one stormy night at sea …

Terraferma (Umi to Tairiku)

Director Emanuele Crialese (“Respiro”) looks beyond the media stereotypes of desperate third-world refugees and cold-hearted first-world Europeans to show how this process affects individuals. “Terraferma” is a warmhearted, compassionate tale, simply told but never maudlin or knee-jerk PC; it’s well worth a look.