When size does matter | Charlie Cauchi

We speak to Charlie Cauchi, organizer of the Small Cinemas conference which will this year take place in Malta over September 24-26. The conference will be rounded off with a ‘Long Table’ discussion, in the hopes of consolidating the relevant themes of small cinema cultures (such as Basque cinema and the Maltese scene) and the ‘space’ of cinema

Charlie Cauchi
Charlie Cauchi

Why did you feel that now is the right time to set up a conference like this in Malta? Were there any recent developments in the Maltese film industry (such as it is) that made you feel that the time has now come to have such a discussion?

It’s a conference that takes place in a different part of the world every year and I was approached to organize this year’s edition, having presented papers at three editions myself.

Usually you would organise a conference at your academic institution, mine being Queen Mary University of London, but because of the Small Cinemas theme and the fact that my research focuses on filmmaking in Malta, the island seemed a better fit.

Also, I think the timing is perfect – not only have the number of foreign film productions increased on the island but this year has seen the launch of the Valletta Film Festival, the introduction of an MA in Film Studies at the University of Malta and the government’s decision to present Malta’s first National Film Policy.

This all really gives the sense that it’s the right time to elevate our conversation with regards to film – not just in terms of production but also film culture and appreciation.

Glancing at the abstracts, some common elements and motifs emerge: Basque cinema, focus on architecture, the socio-political fallout of film locations, etc. What was your focus when selecting the papers, and how do you think the conference reflects back on Malta's situation in particular?

Definitely. The Basque panel for instance is really relevant – especially in terms of producing films in a minority language. And many of the foreign speakers attending the conference are working in contexts that have similar drawback and advantages to Malta – Lithuania and Romania for instance – so it will be a good opportunity for us to be able to discuss similar issues from different perspectives.

In terms of space and architecture – Malta is renowned for its cinematic malleability, which is mainly down to our landscape. So as part of this year’s edition, we are teaming up with Architecture Project (AP) to present a series of papers and presentations around the framework of Spatial Encounters: Exploring the Meaning of Cinema in Architecture.

AP have widened the debates to discuss how the moving image has influenced the architectural production over past century. There are also a number of local presenters too, who will be tackling film from different vantage points including film finance, Malta’s cinematic representation and film festivals.

The Long Table: Do you think the concept will be ‘compatible’ to the Maltese scenario? And what are some of the topics you'd like to see addressed here?

Well, you never can tell what’s going to work and what isn’t, but I’ve seen this method used successfully in a variety of situations, with different types of audiences to discuss so many issues (Bangladeshi identity; feminism; sex and aging). And we love a good chat, right? It’s just that the framework of the conversation has been decided in advance.

Also, using Weaver’s praxis [an artist who is not only a professor in the department of drama at Queen Mary University of London and who I have worked for on her projects to do with sex and aging in New York and London] brings a fresh approach.

Some of the better discussions I’ve had through my period of research have been in living rooms, kitchen or at cafes, where the atmosphere feels less intimidating. In this context there is not one person or panel pushing one agenda – there is no hierarchy.

Everyone is invited to participate and we all bring something different to the table. It’s a less pressured and more democratic way for us to interact with each other. Also, our visiting speakers, many of whom are either from other small nations or specialise in small national cinema, will certainly be able to broaden the discussion.

Finally, what do you hope the (immediate) legacy of the conference to be? What would you wish from local industry professionals and stakeholders to take away from it?

I’d like people to be excited by film and the possibilities of film. There’s a great chance to listen to a range of ideas and views and to transnationalise our debates.

Through the Long Table I hope people are given the chance to learn from each other, foster local and international alliances and exchange ideas and experiences in a friendly setting.

The Small Cinemas conference will be taking place at Blitz, 68, St Lucy Street, Valletta over September 24-26. For registration and other info, log on to http://www.smallcinemasmalta.com/

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