Immanuel Mifsud short film for Book Festival

In its second edition after being re-christened the National Book Festival, the former annual book fair is expanding to different media in a bid to remain fresh, as a short film adaptation of Immanuel Mifsud’s story Laqgha ma Mara Morbi that premieres at the Festival on November 15.

Director Martin Bonnici and actor Mark Doneo on the set of Lagha ma Mara Morbi
Director Martin Bonnici and actor Mark Doneo on the set of Lagha ma Mara Morbi

As part of the National Book Council’s strategy to promote books and reading in Malta, the NBC in collaboration with ONE and Shadeena will be premiering a short film based on Laqgħa ma’ Mara Morbi – a story by the celebrated author Immanuel Mifsud – whose upcoming novel, Jutta Heim, will be launched on October 30.

The project will be a collaboration between the NBC, Martin Bonnici’s production company Shadeena, and ONE. The Council had initially brought the project to state broadcaster PBS, but were refused on the grounds that the broadcaster’s resources “were concentrated for the preparations of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest,” according to the National Book Council’s Executive Chairman Mark Camilleri.

“The National Book Council’s vision is to integrate the local book market with the world of film and TV. We believe that since the local book market is small in size, new opportunities for authors and publishers can increase drastically only if we aim outward to different artistic and cultural sectors,” Camilleri said about the short film – which will be debuting on November 15 at the National Book Festival.

“Until now, the local world of literature has not yet penetrated TV and film and such a development will surely bring more financial returns to our authors and publishers and at the same time, uplift the standards of local TV and film production. I am sure, that when considering the mediocrity of TV and film productions in Malta, the local literary scene is in a very good position to provide it with much needed creativity and artistic content,” Camilleri added.

The story was originally published in a collection of short stories from Europe by Gremese Editore (Milan), as part of a project initiated by PEN Italia in 2003. It was translated into Italian by Mark Vella and Marina Morbiducci. 

“PEN had invited a writer from each EU member state or (as was our case back then) EU candidate state to write a story about being European. I wrote this story about a Maltese man who wakes up after a one night stand with a much younger Polish girl who is still fast asleep in his bed,” author Immanuel Mifsud said, adding that this was not the original story that was set to be adapted.

“But after some discussions, Martin Bonnici [producer, director at Shadeena] and I opted for Mara Morbi. And of course I was happier with this choice.”

Describing the central drama of the story and, subsequently, the short film as being about “a man who is caught between two worlds – we spend one morning with him and slowly see his lie crack and his mask fall,” Bonnici said that he was “pleasantly surprised by Immanuel’s great attitude and support for the project”.

“When working with the authors of the original material, you can face problems due to the different structures that film and literature require. But Immanuel was very aware of this, we discussed the core of the story and he gave us free reign to adapt the short story,” Bonnici said.

Local actor, producer and director Mark Doneo (Silhouette) will be taking on the role of the film’s protagonist.

“I actually had a couple of other actors in mind, but Mark came across the project and told me that he loves the part and would like me to consider him for the role,” Bonnici said.

“Mark and I have been working together on some yet to be announced projects over the past six months so we already had a good rapport. The idea quickly grew on me and he got the role,” Bonnici added.

Laqgħa ma’ Mara Morbi will be premiered on November 15 as part of the National Book Festival at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta, where it will be screened at 20:30. For more information about the Festival search for ‘National Book Council’ on Facebook.