In a desolate corner of the Sicilian countryside lives a family of peasants who have worked the same land for generations, at one with nature, surrounded by the spirits of the dead. The hard changeless monotony of daily life is interrupted by tales of the New World where money falls from trees and carrots are ten feet long. Salvatore makes the momentous decision to sell all he has -- his land, his home, his livestock -- and take his children and aged mother to a better life across the ocean. To become citizens of the New World, they must die a little and be reborn, leaving behind the antiquated customs and superstitions of their homeland. They must be strong in body and healthy in mind, learn to obey and swear loyalty if they wish to pass through the Golden Door. Aided by a mysterious American woman aboard the ship, this metamorphosis occurs during the four difficult weeks of crossing the ocean, which leads to the final judgment: the Island of Tears, Ellis Island. Here, the guardians of the New World will scrutinize the bodies and minds of these prospective citizens, in this wonderful, terrible place where many families will be forced to choose to split up forever. Not all are destined to enter the gates of Heaven.