Food, films and Phoenician ships on fun, light Xtra episode

Light episode of Xtra in the run-up to Christmas, with Saviour Balzan discussing traditional food and recipes with Anton B. Dougall, films and scripts with Malta Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech and underwater archaeology with Dr Timmy Gambin

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks
22 December 2016, 9:06pm
Saviour Balzan in a politics-free episode of Xtra
Saviour Balzan in a politics-free episode of Xtra
The secret behind every great dish, be it a traditional recipe or a modern interpretation of an old-time classic, is preparation, celebrity chef Anton B. Dougall said on Thursday.

Dougall, who was the first guest on the discussion programme Xtra, live on TVM and hosted by Saviour Balzan, managing editor of Media Today, said nostalgic food, like the old rice pudding, bragioli and roast beef or oven-baked potatoes, were still very popular among many people.

But other, originally foreign, dishes such as trifle and Christmas pudding had been introduced into our country so many years ago and had become so popular – even today – that they could be considered also part of our heritage.

Dougall said that the country should pay more attention to protecting the Maltese bread, Maltese garlic and other herbs, like leek, because the country’s gastronomy was losing its identity.

Anton B. Dougall said preparation is the key to culinary success
Anton B. Dougall said preparation is the key to culinary success
As for Christmas, he recommended that families keep portions small and plan their meal well in advance.

Film-making, scripts and sets

Malta Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech was Balzan's second guest on the night.

He emphasised the need for detail to obtain a great result in the industry, with major sets employing tens or hundreds of crew hands to ensure even the smallest detail is catered for.

Malta has so much potential for film-makers that Steven Spielberg had used this country to portray seven different countries in the films he directed that were shot here, Grech said.

The incentives the country offered producers to film in Malta were bearing fruit and had generated €100 million in the last two years alone.

Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech says 2017 promises to be another great year for the industry
Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech says 2017 promises to be another great year for the industry
Films like 13 Hours, Assassin’s Creed had been great revenue generators for Malta.

He said he was thankful that many industries, private business and government departments were still very open to assisting the film industry and this too made the country a more attractive destination for film-makers.

“Entebbe was the biggest production filmed in Malta in 2016,” Grech said. “But this year,  we started seeing a surge in the importance of the series over the feature film, and Malta attracted the first Netflix series to Malta this year too.”

Grech said that producers worldwide, even the most famous, were businessmen at the end of the day and therefore approached negotiations for locations and filming destinations keeping their investment and profits in mind.

The film commissioner revealed - much to Balzan's evident envy - that as part of the conditions for rebates and incentives the country offered producers, he himself gets to read every film's script beforehand.

'What do you mean? You really get to read the scripts of the films beforehand?'
'What do you mean? You really get to read the scripts of the films beforehand?'
He said he was also proud that the commission was doing a lot to promotoe Maltese productions and to provide the tools and guidance for Maltese film-makers to take their product abroad.

As to 2017, Grech promised it would be another great year for the industry, providing well for all those involved.

Of Phoenician ships and British torpedoes

Dr Timmy Gambin, Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology and Classics Department at the University of Malta, who was the third and final guest on the programme, said that underwater archaeology faced a particular hard uphill struggle because the product – and the work itself – was not visible to the general public, who remained mostly unaware of the great treasures that are hidden in the waters around Malta.

Gambin said that all major civilizations that had inhabited, or traded with Malta, had left their imprint in the depths of the waters around the islands, and many remains and artifacts had been discovered.

Dr Timmy Gambin said up to 35% of the Phoenician ship could be recovered if site is excavated
Dr Timmy Gambin said up to 35% of the Phoenician ship could be recovered if site is excavated
He said that in the 11,400 square kilometres of territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, around 200 individual items – from a Phoenician ship to a British torpedo – had been discovered and catalogued.

In the case of the Phenician ship, Gambin said that there was a great probability that up to 35% of the ship itself could be recovered if the site is excavated, since treated timber used in shipbuilding did not decay as quickly as other wood.

He said that experts had idenified at least two objects on board the ship to have been made of Gozotan clay.

Gambin said the country should continue to invest in archaeological research to ensure it safeguard its identity and because, as was happening in the case of international partnerships working on the site of the Phoenician ship, Malta could be a pioneer in this niche segment of research.

        Follow Xtra on Facebook and Twitter for updates, photos from the show and weekly competitions!

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...