‘Much more than a screening’ | Bojana Dimitrovska & Emma Mattei

Teodor Reljic catches up with Bojana Dimitrovska & Emma Mattei for a chat about the 13th edition of the Kinemastik International Short Film Festival, which will be happening once again this year at the Garden of Rest, Floriana 

Copa Loca (dir. Christos Massalas) – showing at the Kinemastik Short Film Festival
Copa Loca (dir. Christos Massalas) – showing at the Kinemastik Short Film Festival

With the successful and beloved Valletta Film Festival taking centre stage as Malta’s primary summer event for cineastes, how would you say this affects the role of the Kinemastik International Film Festival, if at all? 

Bojana Dimitrovska: This year, the international jury at Valletta Film Festival  awarded the Best Feature Film award to Kogonada – the director of Columbus – whose short film ‘Hands of Bresson’, was screened at KISFF in 2015. There are actually a handful of film directors presented at Kinemastik who later went on to make their full length feature films, got big international exposure, and some  were also screened at Valletta Film Festival. One festival complements the other, and whoever visited both festivals will be able to recognise what they’re all about.

Also, film is perhaps incidental to the overall idea of Kinemastik. It is one format that we are passionate and knowledgeable about, but not the only one. The idea is much more than a screening, it’s about bringing people into a space that is given much consideration. 

That said, we really enjoy the process of putting the festival together, and in 13 years have never tired of it. We don’t define ourselves in any particular way, we keep our ticket prices at very affordable rates and we strive to put together programmes that brings insight and delight to all ages.

Would you say that the Kinemastik Film Festival has created its own ‘culture’ over the years and if so, how would you describe it?

Bojana Dimitrovska: Certainly so. Kinemastik has become synonymous with a distinguished sub-culture in Malta, a community that shares our tastes in film, music, arts but also our worldview. Kinemastik has always been about pushing boundaries and pushing our followers deeper into the rabbit hole, hoping that we all emerge out of it with a heightened sense of personal freedom, more inspired and curious about the world, more accepting and understanding of the uncommon, the unusual, the unorthodox. And finally, it makes me very happy that all Kinemastik screenings attract a big number of true film fans, and that they come on the unlikeliest of occasions. We had a film club screening on the eve of a political mass meeting in Floriana this year and one of our regulars drove all the way from Marsascala and struggled to find parking in Valletta amidst the election madness and still made it to the screening. How cool is that? 

There has always been a strong dimension to the festival that caters towards children and younger audiences. How does this component relate to the rest of the festival, and what’s in store for it this year?

Bojana Dimitrovska: Celebrating creativity is a core tenent within the Kinemastik approach, nurturing it is just another aspect of this. In terms of relating to the rest of the festival, our representation of younger audiences is a natural element of the Kinemastik approach.

Little Rock People is about letting the kids turn the entire venue into their playground prior to screenings, teaching them the importance of having their voices heard by casting a vote for their favourite film, letting them play their favourite music at the after party and dancing with them. 

Our kids programme aims to challenge kids on what constitutes film and animation, to place themselves within the films themselves as protagonists and makers and to challenge them, pushing any boundaries of visual language they may already have. A lot of our programme won’t be found on the conventional festival circuits and we’re proud of that. The Little Rock People festival catering for kids aged 2 - 14 will remain at the Garden of Rest on July 30. 

This year, we are extending our age group with the Bigger Rock People a kids festival for ages 7 – 12. This allows us to take thematic issues further. We’ve always featured one or two subtitles in our programme but this platform is truly for the young young adult. We also have a mini concert in place by the very talented band members of M&M - Molly and Max, who are 12 and 10 years old and are sure to make you dance. Bigger Rock People will happen on July 23 at Café Riche in Birgu. Entrance for this event will be free of charge.

But as in previous LRP programmes we have dance, documentary, animation and experimentation. And most importantly the kids themselves, centre stage at their own event. We have had Zen Kono our now 10-year-old master of ceremonies hosting the festival for four years!

Finally, what can we look forward to from the main nights this year? Any highlights in particular that you’re excited about? 

Bojana Dimitrovska: We have an amazing programme this year. We added an special screening on July 27 when we will show Jodorowsky’s latest film Endless Poetry at Garden of Rest. Friday and Saturday (July 28, 29) remain our main festival nights with Saturday being spiced up with a live gig by the Krautrock Karaoke project. Kenichi Iwasa is a Japanese artist/musician coming from the UK to preform with Malta’s finest in what we expect to be a hedonistic and indulgent improvisation of krautrock tunes chosen by our audience and we are very much looking forward to see what unfolds. 

Both nights will finish with old and new Kinemastik DJs spinning tunes til late. We’d also like to boast with our all international female jury including Marija Milovanovic who is head of the international competition ‘Fiction & Documentary’ and coordinator of the industry events at VIS Vienna Shorts, Austria’s biggest short film festival, where she has worked since 2008. Pia Borg, whose films have been in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, SXSW and Experimenta among others. In 2014 she began teaching at California Institute of the Arts.

Aisha Zia is currently resident playwright at Theatre 503 and under commission from Curve Theatre and Contact Theatre in the UK. She won Highly Commended from Amnesty International at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 for her play Our Glass House, and The Scotsman Fringe First in 2014 for her play No Guts, No Heart, No Glory. 

Emma Mattei: This year we have 22 films which we will be screening over two nights. We like to show a truly international selection – apart from the UK, the US and France we also have award-winning short film and documentaries  from The Ukraine, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Syria, Serbia, Palestine, Greece, Colombia and of course Malta included in the programme. 

Subjects include daily life in war torn Aleppo, the awkwardness of political correctness in Scandinvia, erotic indolence in a desolate summer resort, the desperation within the quotidian lives of refugees in Athens, the stark struggle of youth in Parisian banlieue, and yes, a little comedy too!

There is a trend in current short filmmaking towards hybridity and the experimental making it into the mainstream. It’s refreshing and a lot more creative than the general selection available within ‘first feature’ sections at international festivals. It’s where a directors take risks and find their voice. Damien Chazelle, director of LalaLand, rose to stratospheric fame with his film Whiplash, a film which started out as an award-winning short film. 

It’s also easier for directors to address current issues and embrace the novel as it’s possible to shoot a short film and have to ready for the festival circuit within months which is something that can’t be done with feature film.

The Kinemastik International Short Film Festival will be taking place at the Garden of Rest, Floriana from July 23 to 30. More information: