Resilient reels: Kinemastik Festival is back in cinemas across Malta and Gozo

Kinemastik strives to bring international and local short film to cinemas across Malta and Gozo

‘GENIUS LOCI’ directed by Adrien Merigeau
‘GENIUS LOCI’ directed by Adrien Merigeau

When cultural organisation Kinemastik decided to splinter the 16th edition of the annual international short film festival (KISFF), normally held over three consecutive days in July, it was with the intention to bring ‘indie’ film to a local audience in a way that was tangible, and at the same time compliant with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. On 2-3 October, the final instalment of this year’s festival, the competition section, will take place at cinemas across Malta and Gozo.

Kinemastik NGO is focused primarily on independent cinema and music. Founded sixteen years ago, the ethos behind the organisation is to galvanise independent creative activity outside of the constraints of mainstream commercial entertainment. Using organic methods, Kinemastik established its firm place within the local cultural scene, and as a festival has put Malta on the map of independent cinema.  In order to exist, subsist and thrive, Kinemastik was motivated by the feedback of all those who attended events, and participated in workshops; it relied on the perseverance and drive of its members, and a loyal following established along the way.

The NGO has come a long way since 2004, and is now able to operate through the support of the Arts Council Malta, through the Investment in Cultural Organisations fund. Yet it is important to note that the NGO is run as a collective and is kept buoyant but its members. This throws light on a key issue in local independent cultural activity; it remains largely voluntary, as well as supported by funding, in order for its survival.

‘Money Honey’ directed by Isaac Knights-Washbour
‘Money Honey’ directed by Isaac Knights-Washbour

The headline of an article published last Wednesday, 23 September, on Screen Daily, written by Wendy Mitchell, read ‘Pandemic intensifies need for platforms to invest in local indie content, say Euro producers’. The article outlines the European Producers Club’s wish list of industry support measures unveiled during the online European Film Forum presented by Creative Europe at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain on Tuesday, 22 September.

They called for support at the European level, especially during the pandemic; independent production, output and exposure has always been a challenge, now its future is threatened, the crisis is real, urgent solutions are required.

Over the first weekend of October, Kinemastik NGO, in collaboration with Eden Cinemas in St. Julian’s, Spazju Kreattiv Cinema in Valletta, and Citadel Cinema in Rabat, Gozo, bring the final instalment of the Kinemastik International Short Film Festival to cinemagoers and film lovers.  The decision to take the festival indoors into a controlled environment went against the grain of the usual artistic direction, where over the years overlooked and unused spaces have been central to the experience of coming together to watch films, but it was essential to finding a way to bring the festival to its conclusion.

The decision not to go digital was based on this ethos, that watching films is a collective activity, and that even if cinemas are currently limited to no more than 30 persons per cinema, it is still an act of agency and support towards the institutions who enable us to partake in cultural consumption, as well as provide much needed exposure to independent film production. Creating a short film is the genesis of all further cinematic production. The trajectory of all directors begins here, and short film festivals are often the first time that creatives test the waters with their concepts and aesthetics. This year, Kinemastik has five Maltese productions in the programme, which are shown alongside award-winning shorts selected at prestigious film festivals such as Clermont Ferrand, Rotterdam, Berlinale and Locarno. The decision to mix the films within a programme is based on a belief that the local filmmakers will be able to critique their work, as well as process how to evolve in their trajectories as filmmakers and script developers. This is preferable to isolating the films and perpetuating self-reference.

Kinemastik poster
Kinemastik poster

This year’s selection is divided into two programmes, both approximately 100 minutes in length. The prevalent themes in the selection include mental health, race, limbo, agency versus inertia, and as always, a touch of surrealism. Selected during the first wave of Covid-19 that led to a national lockdown, the films examine choice, escapism and reinvention of oneself; unable to travel and work, our minds are the stage and the battlefield of our uncertain futures. Faced with limitations, imagined or real, these short films reveal resilience and resourcefulness, against the odds.

Even more pressing is the need for plurality of voice; as current global political trends alienate our societies, experiencing films from places such as Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine, France, New Zealand, USA, Austria, Romania and the occupied territories, gives perspective and allows for connection, rather than divisiveness. As always Kinemastik will be awarding the Golden Dot Audience Award, as well as the Jury Award, with this year’s jury consisting of Sarah Chircop, Pauline Serrano and Brandon Calleja Shaw.

Tickets are available to purchase directly from the various cinema platforms, Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta, Eden Cinemas in St. Julian’s and Citadel Cinema in Gozo.

Individual tickets are priced at €7 for one programme, or €12 to watch both programmes. For the full programme and more information visit

More in Film