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We chat with the Director of the Malta India Academy & Ex-Film Commissioner of Malta, Mr. Engelbert Grech about the upcoming Malta-India Film Festival
OT Staff: Can you tell us about Malta India Film Festival? How can one take part in it?
Engelbert Grech: The Malta India Film Festival is the first ever event of its kind that is trying to build a bridge between Malta and India. The idea is to create a synergy between the creative people of both countries. We are aiming for three days of screenings and showcasing 16-20 movies in total. However, if we see a huge demand then we will adjust accordingly because we are breaking new ground here.
The basic requirements for filmmakers entering the competition are that film has to have been shot in the past year; on a creative level, the director, producer or scriptwriters and even possibly, the actors have to be either Maltese or India; and the location should be Malta or India. The winners will be rewarded a grand total of € 200,000.
OT Staff: This is the first edition of the festival. Why is collaboration between the two film industries most relevant now more than ever?
Engelbert Grech: We just had a Bollywood film shot here in Malta and we see the potential of teaming together in an artistic sense to make movies together and share the love.
Thugs of Hindostan created the momentum with two big Indian stars producing such a huge film. This is a momentum we shouldn’t ignore. We believe that there is a lot of potential to team the two countries together in an artistic sense and in taking this much further now.
OT Staff: How old is the Maltese film industry?
Engelbert Grech: The film industry in Malta has been active for the past 90 years. We have served as a very good location for over 300 films that were shot in Malta and these make the country rich in terms of film history.
The indigenous film industry is very young, but we are seeing new development where Maltese filmmakers are making movies. We have had aesthetic growth in terms of Maltese film production the past 3-4 years. The most notable film is Simshar, which was entered as a Maltese entry for the Oscars. We are also looking forward to two very interesting movies in production in the next few months.
OT Staff: What are some major films shot in Malta? What were their set locations?
Engelbert Grech: Some of the biggest films shot in Malta have been Gladiator, Count of Monte Cristo, Troy, and Agora. The waters in Malta have always been very popular as sets for films. For example, very few people know this but the Tom Hanks-starrer Captain Philips was shot in Malta too.
The city of Valletta is a gem in terms of architecture and we have had major movies shot there as well such as Assassin’s Creed. Because Malta is so diverse in its architecture, it can double up as many other European countries for filmmakers. For example, In Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie starrer By The Sea, we acted as France. Once again, in another movie, Spielberg used Malta as a set for 7 different countries, including Italy, Cyprus, Spain and Greece! Every city and village lends itself to be used as different locations. Apart from popular films, we had Game of Thrones shot in the old capital city of Mdina in Malta. Even the famous wedding scene has been shot here.
OT Staff: What can Malta and India lend to each other via this festival?
Engelbert Grech: Malta is a very small country compared to India but cross-tourism can be one of the benefits. The Maltese are exploring many possibilities of shooting in India, and I believe that through our commonwealth membership we definitely should explore the idea of co-productions.
Malta offers a very good financial incentive for movie producers—the Government cash rebate to all producers that are spending money in Malta, especially for movies. That is an added incentive.Through the film festival, the Maltese will discover India and Indians can discover Malta a lot more.
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