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Let’s go to the movies

Walking along the lower part of Valletta, the other day, a hoard of technicians, actors and extras were taking part in the filming of the Brad Pitt movie, World War Z.

It was fascinating to see how derelict and rundown parts of the 16th century city were turned into little niches to fit the imagination of the producer and director of the film.

What would people living at the end of the 19th century have thought of such artistic activity on their doorstep?

In the latest edition of Treasures of Malta, the magazine collection that beads together extremely well-written and illustrated articles about personalities and episodes that touched this land, Giovanni Bonello shows that, when it comes to cinemas, the island never lagged behind.

He writes that, while the first show in Europe was screened in Paris on December 28, 1895, just over a year later films were being shown at the Cinematograph exhibition at St George’s Square, Valletta. This hall was on the ground floor where Marks and Spencer now stands. Another cinema known as Cinema del Commercio was at the same address as Caffe Cordina’s in Strada Reale, now Republic Street, Valletta. Other cinemas mushroomed in Sliema.

The author has come up with another gem in his meticulous research. He writes: “Side shows formed a standard part of the entertainment, mostly because at that time, films came without sound… small cabaret acts enlivened the intervals. These included the spectacle by a ‘miniature man’… the well-known Sicilians Baron Pouce who stood at 34 inches high and his eleven year old son, 25 inches.”

Among the rest of the articles are Malta’s Long Lost Voices: The Early Recordings 1931-32 by Andrew Alamango and The Chapel of Padua at Fort Manuel – The Crowning Glory Of Mondion’s Military Masterpiece by Edward Said, just to mention two.

Recently my family doctor lamented the fact that he could not get his hands on the first issue of this magazine to complete his collection.

In the editorial to the 50th edition of Treasures, the new editor, Judge Bonello – who carved a name for himself as a top notch judge at the European Court of Human Rights and who takes over from Paul Xuereb – writes that this bumper edition features more articles than are normally found in one of the routine issues. He writes: “As a concession to nostalgia, we thought of republishing an article that appeared in the fabled No.1 issue, today wholly impossible to find, and commanding record prizes at specialised auctions.”

Published in Christmas 1994, the article by Anthony Bonanno focused on The Romans In Malta. This reprint offers, at least, some solace to those who are still missing the first issue.

For those who have never thought of collecting this series, perhaps it’s time they get going with this milestone issue.

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