Open-air cinema a la carte | Antonio Villa Castelo

As they prepare for another round of open-air cinema on the stairs near Cafe Society in St John’s Street, Valletta, Teodor Reljic speaks to Antonio Villa Castelo of Triq Cinemoon about how the festival came about, and which film selections lie in store for their next ‘round’

Antonio Villa Castelo
Antonio Villa Castelo

How did Triq Cinemoon first get going, and what was your initial motivation in setting up a regular event of this kind in Valletta?

Triq Cinemoon Festival was launched in 2013 by a group of cinema enthusiasts, art designers and film critics from Spain, Italy and UK. We were living in Valletta, and we used to talk about the unique atmosphere and charm of the city, about how perfect a venue it could be for an outdoor cinema. At first, we thought to do something easy and just for fun, for our group of friends, but soon it became very popular and after a couple of screenings we started to gather around 200 people every night. We were learning and improving our skills at the same time the festival was growing. Since the festival started Valletta’s cultural life has expanded a lot and we like to think that we are part of that change.

One distinguishing feature of Cinemoon is of course the voting process to select the films. What led you to choose this element for the events, and what kind of dynamic do you think it contributes to the experience?

Yes, something that makes this film festival special and different is that the audience make the final choice of which film is shown. From the beginning we wanted people who came to feel involved in the event, and the voting process emerged as a way of getting people’s input on the type of films we should be showing.  As the audience and the amount of feedback we got grew we decided to stick with it and it became a distinctive characteristic for our festival.  I think it gives Cinemoon more of a community feeling.  We have a loyal and enthusiastic audi-ence, and I think part of the reason is they feel they contribute to the event instead of just turning up and watching passively.   

Another benefit of the method is that because we programme a lot more films than we show, it allows us to play with more possibilities, with more varied films and genres, when making the festival schedule. 

Triq Cinemoon brings film enthusiasts together on the stairs of St John’s Street, Valletta
Triq Cinemoon brings film enthusiasts together on the stairs of St John’s Street, Valletta

How would you describe Malta’s film-going culture, and what do you think Cinemoon contributes to that?                    

A special place such as Malta, which has been linked to cinematographic industry so deeply, clearly deserves a strong film-going culture. Our perception, especially in recent years, is very positive. Right now you can enjoy great cinema events in Malta like Valletta Film Festival, Kinemastik or Triq Cinemoon itself. Triq Cinemoon only aims to bring good cinema to the charming streets of Valletta, mostly independent films that has been shown in festivals all around the world and that are not shown on the commercial circuits. One of our contributions to Malta’s film-going culture is to bring the possibility of seeing films that otherwise wouldn’t be screened on the island. Besides, you can enjoy those films in such a unique place as our pic-turesque downhill street in Valletta, with a glass of wine, sitting on the stairs under the moon.  It’s a different and more relaxed way of enjoying cinema.

Cinemoon also operates on particular ‘themes’ for each of its seasons... Can you tell us about your summer theme, and what are some of the films that are coming up?

We like to choose themes that are quite open or ambiguous, so we can have a wide variety of films to select. Every edition of Cinemoon has a general theme, and every cinema night has a topic linked with that general theme. The films selected are loosely connected to those topics and include comedies, animations, documentaries, dramas and thrillers. The general theme for this summer is ‘In Time’, and so every event has some sort of time connection. For exam-ple, the first screening this year was ‘night time’ and we gave a choice of three different films all of which took place mostly at night – apart from that, the films were very different – one comedy, one science fiction drama, and one action-horror film.

The topics and dates for the five nights left are: Borrowed Time (August 10), Two Timing (Au-gust 17), Back in Time (August 24), Beating Time (Septenber 7th) and Out of Time (Septem-ber 14). The programme is secret until we update the three choices, five or six days before the screening. 

We can just to say in advance the three films for our ‘Borrowed Time’ night, on August 10 will be: The Barbarian Invasions (2003), Denys Arcand – Canada; Truman (2015), Cesc Gay – Spain and The Brand New Testament (2015), Jaco Van Dormael – Belgium. 

Then and over August and September we will enjoy films from Japan, France, UK, Spain, Ire-land, USA… Different countries and types but, what we can assure, is that all of them are great and that the fifth edition of Cinemoon is bringing the best cinema to Valletta nights over the summer.

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