• Datum 16-01-2014
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Oh, there would be a premiere. A premiere with all the usual gala trimmings, though perhaps any assembled paparazzi wouldn’t be as pressured to jostle, push and elbow their way to the front of the red carpet to snap some usable close-up shots of Malta’s silver screen stars.
This is perhaps the deadliest thing about Malta’s cinematic produce. That the films — at least the mainstream offerings — are bad is one thing; that they’re presented as premiere-worthy Hollywood fare is the real killer.
This year’s mainstream cinema offerings included a cod-medieval swords-and-sorcery ‘epic’ (Adormidera) and a Fast and Furious knock-off (Silhouette). Both are technically ‘indies’, I suppose — Malta is mainly a film-servicing country, not a film-producing one — but neither boasts a singular artistic vision, or even a sense of fun. No, any fun is sucked out of them by their haste to emulate a vague Hollywood model, despite not having the necessary financial resources and technical training to execute even the most rudimentary and forgettable of pastiches.
One of Adormidera’s supposed selling points is a cameo by Joseph Calleja, the world-renowned tenor and arguably Malta’s best export. But aside from being a PR misstep (an artist of his standing shouldn’t be involved in such a dubious project, even on a lark), it later emerged that Calleja is cousin to Adormidera’s cheesecake star, Andrei Claude — like Calleja, also a London-based expat who, when not acting, is winning awards for his work as a pectorally-gifted romance novel model.
Nepotism is to be expected in a country as small as Malta — being an island, its insularity is only made worse — so on this count, perhaps Adormidera is the film we deserve? Silhouette isn’t free from this either: director/producer/star Mark Doneo casts both his wife and his son in the film, which differs from Adormidera slightly by virtue of being a TV spinoff. Essentially, where Adormidera muddles its way through a genre it clearly doesn’t have the necessary cash to play in, Silhouette unspools like an extended soap opera episode. Still unwatchable, mind you, but at least there’s some kind of technical backbone behind it (in this case, the currently-in-power Labour Party’s propaganda network, One TV).
Trite as it sounds, all we need is education. If a proper infrastructure isn’t in place to train wouldbe filmmakers, all we’ll have is a braindrain. Which in a sense is already happening, and not just in film. Malta’s great white hope as far as bona-fide exportable cinema goes currently lies in Rebecca Cremona’s Simshar, a based-on-a-true-story immigrant boating accident feature set for a February release. But Cremona was trained in the UK and the US, and could have easily chosen not to make a film set in Malta.
The only alternatives that sprout up seem to be one-off short films, some of them fizzling away in a vague arthouse ghetto. With Robert McKee setting up an ‘International Writers Institute’ on the island, maybe good scripts will start being produced here. But first, we should scale back our ambitions to emulate Hollywood and look for affordable ways to take advantage of Malta’s truly unique textures (and I say this with no tourist-postcard-type bias).
"Let’s make a schlocky B-horror film and set it in Malta," a friend told me. "This is what we need — a cheap horror film that makes no excuses."
I think he may have nailed it.

Teodor Reljic (@teodoreljic)is culture editor and film critic for MaltaToday, co-editor of Schlock Magazine and author of the forthcoming novel Two.