Independent and feature-length films alongside workshops to show from August 18-20. Esther Lafferty talks to festival director FEDERICO CHINI ahead of the eventful weekend.
In a month when Barbie and Oppenheimer have taken the world by storm, next weekend is set to showcase the Gozo Film Festival, returning for its sixth year and taking place between August 18-20.
Festival director Federico Chini is particularly excited about the three indie feature films he has chosen to show on the main screen in the St John Demi-Bastion in the dramatic night setting of Gozo’s citadel.
“First we will be showing Carmen, which was released in mid-2022 and it’s the perfect fit,” said Chini. “It’s a wonderful, whimsical film, with a light story and great nostalgic atmosphere that really captures Gozo’s charm.”
“There will be a feature movie showing on each of the three evenings, and each night we present something with a different flavour,” he continues.
The film chosen to show on the second evening as the main event is Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi (A Vipers’ Pit) by Martin Bonnici – a thriller set in Malta with English subtitles. “This movie is an undiscovered gem,” said Chini.
“It’s an intriguing thriller with a great story and a fast pace; there’s political intrigue, family drama and fascinating social commentary. It was an obvious choice and deserves wider recognition, so we’re delighted to be bringing it to a new audience.”
The third feature film, Pinocchio, directed by Matteo Garrone, is a fairytale for all the family. Although it wasn’t filmed in Malta, Chini said it is infused with Mediterranean warmth and has strong themes of family and morality, so it’s a good match with local culture.
“This atmospheric, grim, live-action version is a far cry from Disney’s one and stays true to Collodi’s original narrative, combining a sense of mystery with a startling intensity,” he said.
Short films and workshops
While the evening films are chosen for their local relevance, the festival also includes many short films submitted by filmmakers in Malta and from all around the world. Ranging from only a few minutes in length to about 15 minutes, the festival promises a smorgasbord of talent and topics.
“It’s often hard for local filmmakers to be able to show their talent to a larger audience,” Chini explains.
“The Gozo Film Festival allows them to do this and brings to local audiences diverse film styles made with both small and large budgets, so everyone can experience the world through the eyes of people from many cultures.”
The striking variety and contrasts between the short films are an integral part of the festival’s charm. Some are pure entertainment – there is humour and animation – others are quirky, deeper or more thought-provoking, perhaps pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.
We hope the programme and the workshops will be entertaining, interesting and inspiring
“This year’s longest short film is The Maltese Fighter, a beautifully produced film which tells a tale of darker times in Malta when, as factories closed, people had to find different ways of living. The protagonist finds himself forced into criminality as he tries to make a living through boxing,” said Chini.
In contrast, the three-minute stop-motion animation Eat Your Carrots from Canada, created with felt and fabric, is quirky and unexpected, and Catastrophe is a hilarious high-energy drama in two minutes during which, when a little bird keels over dead in its cage, a frazzled ginger cat is the obvious culprit. He tries to make everything right again, but nothing goes to plan.
On-Off, a multi-award-winning short, written and directed by Nicolas P. Villarreal, is another colourful and stylised animation that presents – briefly – the historic talent of Leonardo Da Vinci, Frida Kahlo and Beethoven with a light-hearted and timely message that today’s endless distractions – like social media – threaten to destroy creativity.
Alongside the screenings are several workshops taking place over the weekend, kicking off with ‘Film-making on a Shoestring’. The workshop is designed to give teenagers, in particular, an idea of what can be achieved with only a mobile phone.
“I’m also excited about the scriptwriters’ workshop, run by Kelly-Ann Calleja McGregor – a multi-award-winning Maltese screenwriter who is largely based in London,” adds Chini. During the festival, her recent short film Ruth, shot in a single 12-minute take, gives an insight into the challenges of dementia.
“We hope the programme and the workshops will be entertaining, interesting and inspiring, and mostly will promote filmmaking in Malta and Gozo,” he continues.
“That’s why we have workshops for all ages, including the Kid’s Workshop where children get a chance to learn how a movie is produced, wearing costumes and having fun. Last but not least is a presentation on the career of legendary actor Joseph Calleia, Malta’s biggest Hollywood name.”
Audiences can also look forward to festival’s Frantic Film Challenge – a competition in which participants have 48 hours to write, storyboard, shoot, edit, and produce a complete short film – which must include elements announced at the start of the competition. The top pick be shown on the first night of the festival.
The Gozo Film Festival is sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Directorate within the Ministry for Gozo. For more information and to see the full programme, visit gozofilmfestival.