A love of cinema, music, wine and Valletta is what brought a group of foreigners in Malta together and inspired them to set up an open-air film festival six years ago.
Antonio Villa Castelo and Ed Wilkinson form part of a group of friends who launched Triq Cinemoon Festival in 2013.
Villa Castelo, who is from Spain, moved to Malta eight years ago to improve his English and “take some time for myself”.
“In those days, we all met around the city and became friends. We were living under the magic influence of Valletta and that kind of excitement that comes at the beginning… it was a special time. Then we discovered that we had the same curiosity for cinema, music and wine,” he says.
Wilkinson is from England and moved to Valletta at the same time as Villa Castelo.
“I think Tonio and I met in a bar watching a Real Madrid game. After the match, conversation moved to Leonard Cohen, Graham Greene and our favourite films.”
Together with their other friends, they used to meet at Ta’ l-Ingliż, a bar in St John Street, Valletta.
“It’s situated in a beautiful downhill slope from the cathedral to the harbour and one day it occurred to us that it was the perfect place to put up a screen and show the films we would like to see,” says Villa Castelo.
“Initially, we just expected it to be for a few friends and customers of the bar, but over the years it grew and now the street is packed solid every night we show a film.”
People seem to enjoy it and appreciate the spirit of seeing a film under the moon
Two other people who co-founded the festival, Carola Ruggeri from Sardinia and Pablo Gonzáles from Barcelona, have since left the country. The team now comprises Pedro Villalba and Mark Darmanin as sound managers and Raf Wojtas on production.
Villa Castelo, who is the film organiser and programme manager, has a film background as he worked as a TV writer and film critic for several publications in Spain. He is currently working in a bookshop in Valletta and in the organisation of musical and cinema events both locally and in his home country.
Wilkinson, who teaches at university, is the festival’s art designer and does the event’s posters, illustrations and occasional videos. These are partly inspired by old posters and adventure films he remembers fondly from his childhood.
“I think they fit well with Cinemoon’s easy-going and slightly nostalgic atmosphere,” he says.
The festival, which now shows films every Thursday a bit further down from the original venue, is different to other similar events. First of all, it’s free and, secondly, the audience gets to choose the film they would like to see via a poll on the event’s Facebook page.
“I think this is really important, as it helps keep the same community feeling we started with alive – everyone who comes gets to be involved,” Wilkinson comments.
Another element that sets the festival apart is, according to him, “the beautiful setting, for which Valletta takes full credit”.
Each edition carries a different theme, with past ones including ‘bodily functions’, ‘in motion’ and ‘manias’.
These are further divided into topics for each screening.
“Such themes give Tonio plenty of room to choose interesting and fun films,” points out Wilkinson. “The interpretation of each topic can be literal or metaphorical. For example, last year the theme was ‘In time’, and the topic for one night was “two timing”. The choices were Carol, which is about someone two timing in the sense of having an affair; La Vida de Nadie, which is about a man living two lives at the same time; and The Double, which follows a man who is literally multiplied by two when his physical duplicate mysteriously appears at his workplace.”
This year’s theme is ‘In place’ and it will cover places as diverse as a bar, the mind, an altar, the countryside, the streets, home and the whole wide world.
“The films we have selected, as usual, include many independent films that would be difficult to watch in commercial cinemas,” says Villa Castelo, who likes to bring in old favourites of his and movies showing in film festivals around the world.
The festival has received very positive feedback since its launch.
“People seem to enjoy it and appreciate the spirit of seeing a film under the moon,” says the Spaniard.
“They’ve also been pretty forgiving on the few occasions things went wrong,” adds Wilkinson, referring to an evening when their rolled-up screen was stolen two hours before the screening, or when they accidentally scheduled a film at the same time as a fireworks festival.
After six years, the duo is still very enthusiastic about the project.
“We like to think that we are part of the refreshing local film culture that Malta, and specifically Valletta, is enjoying right now with the Valletta Film Festival, Kinemastic, Solar Cinema and Cinemoon itself,” says Villa Castelo.
“There’s total independence from the institutions, which means that we don’t have any financial help but, on the other hand, this allows us more freedom to do things our own way.”
The sixth edition of Triq Cinemoon Festival is back this evening with the sub-theme ‘At the Bar’. The screenings take place in St John’s Street, Valletta, in front of Café Society on Thursdays at 8.30pm. Attendance is free.
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