In a desolate corner of the Sicilian countryside lives a family of peasants who have worked the same land for generations. The monotony of daily life is relieved by the arrival of a man from America. This man, with his golden teeth, goes from place to place talking about the New World and its inhabitants, of the riches of this paradise: potatoes as big as train carriages, carrots as long as canoes, trees dripping with gold coins. And he has photographs proving the truth of this fabulous place. His job is to accompany the families of the men who have left previously and are now happily working in the Promised Land.
The Mancuso family has already seen one of their men leave, many years before, and has been waiting for news. The man with the golden teeth has come to offer it, and his help during the epic voyage ahead. To become citizens of the New World, they must die a little, and must be reborn. They must leave behind the antiquated customs and outdated beliefs of their homeland; they must be strong in body and healthy in mind, must learn to obey and swear loyalty if they wish to pass through The Golden Door. They must transform themselves from old-fashioned humans into modern ones. The time during which this metamorphosis is to be accomplished is a time of suspension on the waters of the ocean, two arduous weeks of crossing, after which they will arrive at the place of Final Judgement: the Island of Tears, Ellis Island. Here, the guardians of the New World will scrutinise them, case by case, millimetre by millimetre. They will study the bodies and minds of these prospective citizens, in this wonderful, awful place where many families will be forced to choose, to split up forever. Not all are privileged to enter the gates of Heaven.