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Our verdict of the 2nd Mediterrane Film Festival

DMovies' editor Victor Fraga attended the nascent and promising film festival of Malta; he describes his experience, lists the winners and his dirty picks

The 2d edition of the second Mediterrane Film Festival drew to a close last night, after showcasing 45 films, countless industry masterclasses and supporting activities during the course of nine days (from June 22nd to June 30th) to audiences of the smallest, least and yet most densely populated EU country (with a population of 531,000 inhabitants spread over just 316km2), as well as film lovers, professionals and journalists from all over Europe. The action took place in the capital Valletta, with the crowdpleasers screening at an open-air cinema of Saint George’s Square, and the more worldly, arthouse selection showing in the Eden Cinemas, in the nearby town of St Julien.

Malta is a country mostly recognised as a film location, from films such as Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000), Troy (Wolfgang Peterson, 2004), fantasy television series Game of Thrones and also the latest instalment in the Jurassic World franchise. The Festival took us on a tour of Malta Film Studios, which boasts indoor tank and two large exterior water tanks. We were also given exclusive access to the partly damaged and impressive Fort Ricasoli (Malta was one of the most heavily bombed places on earth during WW2), where Scott shot his film a quarter of a century ago. Other trips included the Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni, an extraordinary underground burial complex bearing testimony to a civilisation that has disappeared roughly 6,000 years ago.

The event’s lavish closing ceremony attracted in excess of 1,000 guests to Fort Manoel, a 16th century construction on Manoel Island, across the Harbour Cruise and overlooking Valletta. It opened with a publicity film entitled Once Upon a Time in Malta, featuring David Walliams dissecting the country’s history and mocking the Festival’s to prize (a bee statuette “that looks a doorstop”). Other special guests included Gladiator star Russell Crowe and legendary British director Mike Leigh. The latter received a Lifetime Achievement Award, and recommended that aspiring filmmakers “never compromise” (ie. that they never do a film they don’t want to do in the hope of achieving recognition and only then doing something they want). These two words were the most refreshing ones of the evening.

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The winners

Below are the most important award winners. Just click on the film title in order to accede to our exclusive review, where available:

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Our verdict

The main competition featured 15 films from Mediterranean countries (including a neighbouring inclusion: Jordanian entry The Stranger’s Case). These film were in their overwhelming majority arthouse, meditative and sombre dramas. The only notable exception was Coralie Fargeat’s hilarious and absurd body horror drama Substance. My dirty picks and personal favourites Who Do I Belong To (Meryam Joobeur), San Sebastian winner The Rye Horn (Jaione Cambora; you can click here in order to read our interview with the Spanish filmmaker) and indeed The Substance left empty-handed.

While I would recommend the diversity and the audacity of the selection, particularly the inclusion of a Palestine narrative (To A Land Unknown), it is also my duty to highlight one conspicuous absence: Maltese films. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing a Maltese film story in my life, or one in the local language. I’m sure the potential is enormous: the island boasts an extraordinary history dating back to Roman times, with a close connection to the UK, Italy and France (amongst other nations). Maltese is the only semitic language in the EU, a fascinating hybrid of Arab and Latin (the word for “thank you very much” is a fine example of this duality: “grazzi hafna”, with a hard “h” as in “loch”). It’s time this superbly diverse country to expand its film credentials beyond location provider and post-production services. The world needs to hear Maltese stories. Sorry, but that just doesn’t include dinosaurs running the narrow streets of the nation’s capital – the extinct reptiles are not an integral part of Maltese culture. Perhaps they could take a page from Iceland’s book: the remote Scandinavian nation has less than half the population of Malta and a thriving film industry telling local stories.

DMovies covered all 15 films in the main competition, and a few others. You can see our full coverage (25 pieces in total) by clicking here.

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The closing ceremony at Fort Manoel is pictured at the top of this article. The other image is a still of the award-winning feature Life.


By Victor Fraga - 01-07-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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