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Polish 'criminals' chased in Vittoriosa

Clare Agius (right) who plays the part of a Maltese member of the police corps. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

Clare Agius (right) who plays the part of a Maltese member of the police corps. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

It was all quiet the other day at the Vittoriosa Waterfront, until a 1950s Morris Minor convertible sped past St Lawrence parish church stopping abruptly by the gateway leading to Fort St Angelo.

In the driver's seat was actress Clare Agius in the role of a Maltese member of the police corps accompanied by two Polish police officers.

They were chasing a pack of criminals - the protagonists of an extremely popular series for Polish TV called Kryminalni which is screened on Saturdays. Last year the series, which is watched by about four million viewers, won the top Polish award for TV productions.

The story starts with the wedding of a Polish police officer whose second wife is shot dead and who takes it upon himself to avenge her death.

"The director of the TV series Teresa Rylko-Szymanska Michal Walczak met me in a café in Warsaw last October to tell me about their intention to shoot two episodes for the series in Portugal," Krystyna Mikulanka, Malta's honorary consul in Poland said.

Enjoying a Cappuccino in a café in Vittoriosa, Ms Mikulanka recounted how she suggested to the directors that they forget about Portugal and shoot the episodes - each running for an hour - here.

"We came here last November for the directors to see what Malta could offer and the more they saw, the more enchanted they became with this beautiful island.

"I have been coming here for years, but there are places which still posses spell-binding beauty.

"The more they saw of the island - the different lifestyle, the pace of life and the architecture, the greater their appetite grew."

This is the first time the directors have taken their production abroad.

"They are not Hollywood but I believe this is the first step in a long relationship with Malta in this genre," Ms Mikulanka said.

Director Michal Walczak said that Ms Mikulanka's passion for Malta convinced them they would find everything here needed for filming the episodes.

"The fans follow their heroes wherever they venture," Mr Walczak said.

Ms Mikulanka added that it would not surprise her if more Polish tourists were to visit Malta through the promotion it was getting.

"Malta will be shown in all its splendour. The directors will not be changing anything from what the island looks like.

"The filming would not have been possible without the great help by the Malta Tourism Authority," the honorary consul noted.

The Polish team of 40 people have been shooting for 11 days and leave today. Accompanied by a Maltese crew, they have shot footage in Gozo, Marsaxlokk, Valletta, the Fortina Hotel and Kalkara making use of cars, motor boats and helicopters for these fast action episodes.

The episodes shot here show the Polish policeman being trapped by the band of criminals, taken out to sea and thrown overboard. The policeman, however, manages to swim ashore and is found exhausted by Clare Agius who takes him in and nurses him back to health.

Together they manage to trap the criminals.

Is there a third marriage for the police officer in the pipeline, I ask Ms Mikulanka.

"We'll have to wait and see," she answers with a broad smile.

The polish crew have also produced a "making-of" documentary about the two "Maltese" episodes. This will be broadcast to promote the series.

Winston Azzopardi, executive producer, said that while big productions like Troy, Gladiator and Munich portray Malta as another country, these episodes offer fantastic exposure for the island.

"Just imagine how much it would cost to produce and broadcast a 30- second TV commercial promoting Malta?

"The MTA is doing a fine job assisting such productions which go a long way in promoting Malta to millions of viewers for two whole hours," Mr Azzopardi said.

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