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When the city became a cinema | Valletta Film Festival – 2016
With the second edition of the Valletta Film Festival celebrating its closing ceremony last Saturday, we look over some of the highlights of what continues to be a key appointment in Malta’s cultural calendar
13 June 2016, 8:00am
Majd Mastoura and Rym Ben Messaoud, the actors portraying the thwarted romantic protagonists of Mohamed Ben Attia’s slow-burning drama, opened the Valletta Film Festival on June 3 prior to its screening, welcoming the audience to partake in a discussion about the film and its implications in a scheduled discussion organised by the festival.
The film certainly plunges viewers into the daily foibles of its characters – chiefly Hedi, days away from his wedding but psychologically adrift – but any overt political discussion points are thin on the ground. Instead, the primary source of the drama – Hedi finding true love in Rym days before his wedding – is universal in a lot of ways, but also particular to the Tunisian family dynamic.
Our lovers do chat about the Tunisian revolution at one point, but Hedi is no revolutionary, and it’s suggested that his struggles stem from his comparative passivity. Opening the door onto a foreign culture that is nonetheless geographically close to us, and doing it through the blossoming of a potentially doomed relationship was the right way to set the tone for the Valletta Film Festival, which this year boasted a ‘Without Borders’ sub-programme.
Hotel Dallas (Romania)
A mockumentary built on a quirky historical factoid – Ceausescu allowed Dallas as the only American broadcast on Romanian TV for the express purpose of showing how decadent and corrupt American society was – its weaving together of musical, road trip and an overarching quest narrative never felt forced, pretentious or weird-for-weird’s-sake.
The reason for this is simple: the film’s inherent – sometimes cartoony – strangeness is implicit in the topsy-turvy political situation it seeks to dissect. But it’s the dissection of a trickster, not a surgeon.
Director and protagonist Livia Ungur leads this surrealist fable-cum-historical investigation with the help of Dallas’ ‘Bobby’ himself, Patrick Duffy (would love to have been a fly on the wall for his first meeting with Ungur and her team) and it’s a hilarious, inspired journey.
Sand Storm (Israel)
Impeccably photographed by Shai Peleg and just as sensitively acted, Sand Storm is a coming-of-age story that doesn’t exactly lack humanity and humour, but whose presentation of a gridlocked social order for women is sure to inspire righteous anger. Unlike the deflated climax meted out to her character, the beautiful and versatile actress Lamis Ammar can likely look forward to a bright future.
The Valletta Film Festival took place across various venues in Valletta from June 3 to 11
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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