Over the Easter weekend, the papers were full of media reports, interviews and opinion pieces about the recently released film Dear Dom.
You cannot change history although attempts have been made to rewrite it- Caroline Galea
I have not watched the film and have no intention of doing so. Having borne witness in a historical context to events that have shaped so many of my family’s and friends’ lives, I feel no need to try and rewrite history, especially when thousands of us are still living testaments of the political reign of the Mintoff era from the 1970s to the 1980s.
I did, however, read the various commentaries and appreciate that in making a film, an expression of art, if you will, it is the artist’s prerogative to be as subjective or as objective as he wishes. Film making is not about documenting history but about extracting enough about a character or plot to turn it into powerful enough stories that will, hopefully, turn into box office hits.
It must be encouraging for the producer when his film sparks debate and criticism because this can only ultimately result in more viewership.
Director-producer Pierre Ellul attempts to depict a crucial character in Malta’s political history and capture this on film.
People reacted to the film expecting to see Dom Mintoff depicted either as a hero or a villain. I have no problem with cinematic expression of opinion that does not reflect my own.
What I do know is that all around us are families with stories to tell of breaches of human rights, crushed dreams and aspirations, violence and more. These are all trademarks of the Mintoffian era and no attempts to try and rewrite history and to attempt to depict Mr Mintoff otherwise can ever change this.
And so I opted not to watch the film, not because I have any reservations about the actual making of this production but because I have seen and touched the pain and suffering borne by Maltese families under the Mintoff rule. I would not wish for an artistic representation of this character to insult the memories of my grandparents whose lives were so badly affected by Mr Mintoff.
You cannot change history although attempts have been made to rewrite it. We owe it to our forefathers and to ourselves to ensure that when this is done it is immediately corrected.
Revisiting history is a good thing but only when this is faithfully done. Anything less is an insult to the Maltese nation!
It was with great disappointment that I therefore read an interview in The Sunday Times quoting Yana Mintoff Bland, Mr Mintoff’s daughter, recounting with a sense of nostalgia her childhood.
Dr Mintoff Bland chose to tell us how her parents decided to send her abroad for her education as it was felt that her family was the subject of persecution at the time. She seems to believe that the younger Maltese generation has been “fed a pack of lies” about her father’s rule and is angered by the making of this film, which seems to fall short of depicting her father nothing less of an unsung hero.
Maybe she also believes that by accepting to stand for the next election as a candidate for the Labour Party she will be in a better position to put things right about her father’s role in the political history of Malta.
Well, Dr Mintoff Bland need not have gone to all the trouble of coming back to her homeland after spending so many years living abroad in order to help us get our facts right. I can assure her that thousands of us are living testaments of her father’s political decisions and, since we have not all started to suffer from selective dementia, we can easily remind her of what she chose not to see through her childhood rose-coloured spectacles.
Mr Mintoff ran the country with an iron fist and will be remembered, among others, for his ways of settling old scores, his unsavoury dealings with totalitarian regimes, his suppression of free speech, his total control over public broadcasting.
His unpredictable work ethic led to instability in foreign affairs, suspect choices of government representatives and unending experimentation, all at the expense of the lives of struggling Maltese families.
He remains famous for his wage freezes, the massive unemployment during the tenure of his governments, the run on the National Bank, the involvement of the General Workers’ Union in non-union matters and the suspension of the Constitutional Court.
We will never forget the expulsion of the Blue Sisters or the hijacking of the Catholic schools, which led to an upheaval of the education system with all the collateral damage that this led to.
His leadership was also marked by feisty confrontations with doctors, teachers and students and his seeming “inability” to control Labour Party supporters who were set on controlling the masses through violence.
Dr Mintoff Bland’s interview ends with her asking for more facts in order for her to be in a position to answer a question on the breaching of human rights during the time of her father’s reign as Prime Minister. The facts are there to be seen. You just need to open your eyes to them!
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