Summer cinemas for the capital city | Valletta Film Festival

Come June, Valletta will become a cinema-friendly city, as the Valletta Film Festival gets under way across various venues over the capital city. We spoke to festival directors Slavko Vukanovic and Oliver Mallia to find out more about the ambitious event, and get some insight into how they aim to tap into the Maltese cinema-going public.  

Still from Rebecca Cremona’s Simshar: “We still produce very few films and documentaries per year and hardly anything of what we produce gets exhibited beyond our shores”
Still from Rebecca Cremona’s Simshar: “We still produce very few films and documentaries per year and hardly anything of what we produce gets exhibited beyond our shores”

What is the main aim of the Valletta Film Festival? 

The aim of the Valletta Film Festival (VFF) is to become a leading cultural event in Malta and a prominent film festival in the Mediterranean, presenting to local and international audiences high-quality productions from all over the world. The festival will present progressive and innovative independent cinema and a wide range of feature length documentaries. The variety of selected works, the historic venues that will host some of the screenings, and the various other events that will be organised at the festival would make it a live, communal affair that engages various sections of the community.

How does the VFF complement long-standing initiatives like the Kinemastik Film Festival? 

The Valletta Film Festival aims to build on the success of smaller festivals like the annual Kinemastik that is now in its 11th year. However this will be a bigger event open to a wider audience. Our aim to present Maltese audiences high-quality feature length films and documentaries that normally remain undistributed locally, or, if distributed, they are given little publicity due to their limited commercial appeal.

What would you say are some of the ‘blind spots’ of the local cinema scene, both in terms of films produced and films screened?

As a country we still produce very few films and documentaries per year and hardly anything of what we produce gets exhibited beyond our shores. The problem leading to this situation is complex and it’s not the remit of Valletta Film Festival to provide a solution to the lack of output that exists. However, Film Grain Foundation, the entity behind the festival, won’t be sitting on the fence. Our plan is to invite producers and commissioning editors to Malta to network with local producers. If there will be an increase in quality output on annual basis this event will surely provide Maltese filmmakers a new platform they could use to exhibit their films and help their projects get noticed by international sales agents and distributors.

What will be some of the first events out of the gate for the Valletta Film Festival? 

The first edition of the Valletta Film Festival will be held from June 15 to 21. This year we will have five different sections, including an official competitive section split into three categories for feature films, documentaries and short films. These films will compete for different awards that will be adjudicated by an international audience. Another competitive section will be called ‘Islanders’. This section is open only to films from islands or about islands and the audience will be given the chance to choose the best film.

Apart from the screenings that will be held around the city, the festival will also include a number of masterclasses given by renowned film practitioners and talks about filmmaking, culture and other contemporary affairs.

These events will create a valuable connection with the community and will allow knowledge to be both absorbed and distributed. We hope that through these initiatives the festival will build a legacy that would go beyond film exhibition and industry networking as it will inspire present and future generations to use audiovisuals as a medium to understand and reflect on who we are.

How do you aim to attract a solid audience?

Given that Valletta had its first cinema only 13 months after the Lumiere brothers exhibited their first moving images in Paris, one wonders why Malta has waited this long to get its first film festival. More so since cinema-going is the most popular cultural activity in Malta and it’s the only one that puts Malta on par with its European neighbors in terms of audiences. Cultural participation in Malta is amongst the lowest in Europe, however 52% of the Maltese go to the cinema at least once a year.

The Valletta Film Festival will build on our history and reality by offering cinema-goers something different. The choice of over 45 independent films exhibited in one week, together with the presence of filmmakers and talent that will attend to present these films, coupled in turn with the beautiful historic settings that Valletta offers and the various social events that will be happening throughout the week, would turn the city turn into a cinema.

Nowadays we are used to watch movies anywhere and on so many devices however watching a film in a historic place, under the stars, on a giant screen with friends or loved ones and then discussing that over a meal or a drink is a great experience that VFF will offer and hopefully audiences, both local and visiting ones would concur.

The Valletta Film Festival will take place between June 15 to 21 across various venues in Valletta: Pjazza Teatru Rjal, St James Cavalier Cinema, Fort St Elmo, Palace Square, Embassy Cinema. For more information log on to: http://www.vallettafilmfestival.com. The event is supported by the Malta Arts Fund. 

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