Another summer in shorts
Ahead of the latest edition of the Malta Short Film Festival, Paula Fleri-Soler sits down with festival director Joyce Grech to discuss the setting-up of the Malta Film Foundation, this year’s entries and what the future holds for the competition.
Festival stalwart Joyce Grech begins by explaining how she and Tony Parnis have been working to promote Maltese film for many years. But four years ago, they embarked on their most ambitious project to date: The Malta Short Film Festival.
“Over time we felt we needed to give more structure to our work, and we therefore set up the Malta Film Foundation,” she said.
Grech went on to explain the foundation’s primary focus will remain the festival but there are other areas they will delve into, especially the promotion of Maltese film locally and internationally.
To the festival itself, and out of 130 submissions, 41 have been chosen from 22 countries, including 10 shorts from Malta. What has been most striking about this year’s selection?
“The eliminatory phase is quite a painstaking experience,” she admitted. “Although our main criteria are good quality and originality, we also bear in mind that the film must be suitable for television viewing.
“One of the main aims of the festival is that through the discussion that follows the films in the studio – and hopefully at home – the audience will gain a deeper appreciation for the short film format.”
Grech pointed out that human stories prevail that have deep roots in the cultural and social context of the people they are portraying; for example, the plights of the Roma people; the situation 25 years after Chernobyl and the political situation in Argentina in the 1970s.
Elaborating further, Grech said two programmes will be dedicated to animation, while the selection also features co-productions between different countries, an example of how Maltese film-makers might strive to find the financial and human resources they need to attract investors and gain wider distribution.
Local productions feature a mixture of newcomers and past participants, and “we are noticing that through the festival, past participants are even collaborating on new projects. The Maltese entries this year are very different; we have films that are experimental, dance, and even some romance.”
I wondered what the ‘x-factor’ is, when judging a film. Pondering her answer, Grech said that “for a film to truly strike a chord with the audience, it must have all production elements in place. One element is originality – this is of course subjective – yet a good film must have some degree of originality that keeps the audience guessing to the very end.”
She went on to explain there are films that excel in a particular area such as script, editing or cinematography, and that particular attribute would definitely stand out.
“I admit that there are films that we agree on immediately and others that we discuss long after the cameras are switched off because they spark different emotions in each one of us.”
Looking to the future, Grech explained the foundation is constantly creating partnerships with film-makers, festival organisers, cultural organisations and other entities to receive as many films as possible ensure that the level of quality expected from the festival is maintained.
She also expressed hope that the festival would grow enough in stature to be able to accommodate the requests of many film-makers, overseas festival organisers and press to be present, but so far the infrastructure is not available.
“This would certainly put Malta on the map as an important international festival,” she said, and judging by her enthusiasm and passion for what she does, I would not be surprised if this were to happen sooner rather than later.
Malta Short Film Festival
The fourth edition of the Malta Short Film Festival will return to TVM every Tuesday from July 3 at 9.45 p.m.
Produced by the newly-established Malta Film Foundation, this year’s festival is supported by the Malta Arts Fund and Studioseven.
The festival hopes to continue to build on the success of previous years –viewer numbers have been high, and it has also been the recipient of the TV Award for Best Cultural Programme.
Festival stalwarts Joyce Grech and Tony Parnis serve as executive producer and festival director respectively.
As in previous years, the jury includes film producer Winston Azzopardi, arts commentator and critic Tony Cassar Darien, the dean of the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences Saviour Chircop and Ms Grech, cultural journalist for over 18 years. This year, the festival welcomes presenter Frederick Attard.
Prizes will be awarded for best editing, script, production design, animation, documentary, sound, viewers’ choice and the top trophy, best picture.