Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

“Quiet on the set! And… action!” Verdala Palace, Fort Manoel, the streets of the town of Bormla on Malta, the Manoel Theatre will hear these commands many times in the coming days. In September 2019, shooting started in Malta of the first film dedicated to the island’s history. The film tells the story of one of Malta’s most dramatic moments, June 1919, Sette Giugno, which is sometimes called “the first Maltese revolution.”

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

The first film made in Malta… about Malta!

Let’s start with what everybody knows. Malta is a world-famous film set. Over several decades, it has seen the making of more than 300 films, including “Troy,” “Gladiator,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Captain Phillips,” “Midnight Express,” the “Game of Thrones” saga. Sometimes, the legions of fans of those epic films do not even know that there is a small Mediterranean island out there where all those films were made. The irony is that none of the hundreds of films shot on the island are about Malta itself and none are made by local filmmakers. This bizarre situation is to be rectified by the making of the film “Storbju” in Maltese and “Just Noise” in English. Shooting started on 14 September.

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

Malcolm McDowell

actor

“The film I play in tells the story of the Maltese people’s striving for independence. They succeeded, and the first impetus was given back then, in 1919. To oppose the powerful British army, they needed to be very brave. Very young people, students (who took part in those events) made Malta’s future independence possible.”

From talking the talk to walking the walk

The local production company Monolith is the trailblazer of Maltese filmmaking. For several years, the company produced low-budget films. Yet scriptwriter Jean Pierre Magro had been nursing the idea of a large-scale film capable of conquering global filmmaking centres and, one day, he pitched the project to producers Pedja Miletic and Aaron Briffa.

He showed them the script for a film about the events of 1919. “The film tells the story of the day we call Sette Giugno. It was an uprising that happened when Malta was ruled by Britain. This is the time when the Maltese nation began to realise their need for freedom. That is the moment of our national pride!” Aaron Briffa says.

The producer recalls, “When Pedja Miletic and I saw Jean Pierre Magro’s script, we knew it could make a wonderful film. We decided to realise this terrific idea!”

Pedja Miletic says that, initially, Jean Pierre Magro’s script was more for a short film but the topic was too big, so the film could not possibly be a short one.

“We went to Konstantin Ishkhanov, President of the European Foundation for Support of Culture, showed him the script, and described our vision of the project. He agreed to help us in implementing our idea; then we were joined by Malta’s Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government and the Ministry for Tourism. That was the start of making the film”, said Miletic.

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

Pedja Miletic

producer

“In essence, we are now making the biggest product on Malta’s film market because this is the first film that is Malta’s intellectual property. This is how this film will be promoted internationally.”

The “Storbju” film crew

In addition to Pedja Miletic and Aaron Briffa, the already mentioned members of the Monolith company, the production team includes Konstantin Ishkhanov, President of the European Foundation for Support of Culture, as the general producer. The Italian director Davide Ferrario, whose directorial debut was the 1989 film “La fine della notte”, was invited to take the helm of the picture.

Ferrario is known for his ability to work in different genres. His portfolio includes documentaries that have been shown at Russian film festivals, feature films and musicals. He is a regular at the Venice International Film Festival, winner of the Berlinale. Ferrario is also known for his novel Fade to Black (1995) made into a 2006 film by Oliver Parker.

Ferrario says that, in the new film project, the subject is key for him.

“This is not just a fragment from the history of Malta; this is a universal story of people fighting for their rights and independence. So the tale we are telling is international and understandable throughout the world”, Davide Ferrario says. “Malta is located between Europe and Africa, at the cross-roads of culture; it is an island that wanted to be independent. I will try to represent that striving in visual images!”

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

Filming crew

The film crew will be visualising Malta’s striving for independence in the town of Bormla, which has few aerials and water tanks on rooftops, thus making it possible to create the illusion of the early 20th century. The Manoel Theatre will be another shooting location. Initially, there were no plans to shoot there, but the old theatre won the hearts of the filmmakers when they saw it. Verdala Palace will serve as the residence of the British governor in the film. Finally, Fort Manoel will also be a shooting location.

Hollywood stars Harvey Keitel and Malcolm McDowell are among the film’s cast. We will name but a few of the many films starring Harvey Keitel: Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” As for the films with Malcolm McDowell, in choosing just two them, we confine ourselves to his starring role in Stanley Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” and in Tinto Brass’s “Caligula.”

In their first days on Malta, the legendary actors attended a concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the Mediterranean Conference Centre. “This was a concert worthy of any world capital. A wonderful conductor from Armenia, a marvelous Russian pianist, the amazing sound of the orchestra! I’d also like to note that the musicians chose Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’, which is not the easiest piece to perform! And it was terrific!” McDowell said after the concert.

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

Aaron Briffa

producer

“Many famous films have been made in Malta but they were all made by foreign companies. This is the first time we have given Maltese actors an opportunity to work on a film with such Hollywood stars as Malcolm McDowell and Harvey Keitel. We will show Malta itself. It was the background for many films but it has never been recognisable. For instance, in ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, you see Malta’s beautiful port but the caption says it’s Venice or Madrid. We want to show Malta as Malta, and this is also a new thing. People will see how beautiful our island is!”

Cinema and music

Not by chance did the Hollywood stars go to Malta Philharmonic’s concert. Aaron Briffa says that an important part in making the film is that the music for it will be recorded by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, led by its principal conductor Sergey Smbatyan.

“This is Malta Philharmonic’s first foray into the film industry. They have never done anything like that before!” Briffa emphasised. “Our idea is to bring together members of the arts industry of Malta: from musicians to actors to stylists and designers, to give those creative people a unique opportunity to show their talent beyond the island of Malta.”

As for the music for the future film to be recorded by the Malta Philharmonic, it has been written by the contemporary American-Maltese composer Alexey Shor.

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

The uniforms for the actors playing British soldiers have been specially made in the United Kingdom by the same company that manufactured the uniforms back in 1919.

Malta, long stories, and press conferences at the Manoel Theatre

Jean Pierre Magro, who wrote the script, is a producer and writer with a PhD in transmedia narratives from the University of Exeter. He says that, when he told his friends he wanted to be a writer and write film scripts, they just laughed, saying that people of Malta “do not like telling long stories.” And at one point, he decided that making a film about Malta in the Maltese language and selling it on the international market was impossible.

“But then my colleagues and I developed a plan and, when I realised that the government was ready to support us and we had a common vision and great goals, I believed in the success of the idea”, Magro said at the press conference marking the launch of the project. The conference was held in the Manoel Theatre on 4 September.

Not Just Noise! Film on sette giugno is now being shot in Malta

The events of 1919 are called the first Maltese revolution. It was the first step in the struggle for Malta’s independence from Britain. The increasing unemployment and rising bread prices brought the protesting people on to the streets. Later, 7 June 1919 will be called “The Day of Wrath.” The Sette Giugno uprising of 1919 holds the fundamental place in the Maltese national consciousness. The protests ended in tragedy: several insurgents were shot dead by the British troops in Valletta.

In addition to the creators of the idea, the presentation of the unique Maltese project was attended by Minister of Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici, Executive Chair of the Arts Council Malta Albert Marshall, Minister of Tourism Konrad Mizzi and President of the European Foundation for Support of Culture Konstantin Ishkhanov.

Commenting on the plot of the film dedicated to Sette Giugno, Minister of Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici noted: “We want people, particularly the younger generation, to know our history. It is sometimes difficult to talk to the young people of Malta about events that took place more than a hundred years ago. We try to preserve our historical memory. We celebrate the events of 1919. What we have today largely comes from what happened in those days.”

Albert Marshall, Executive Chair of Arts Council Malta, believes that the making of the film is a very important landmark for both Malta’s film industry and the entire cultural sector, since this is the first time the government has participated in creating a feature film dedicated to the history of Malta.

In turn, Minister of Tourism Konrad Mizzi said that Malta’s own film project is an important stage in developing Malta’s film industry and a wonderful way of promoting the island internationally.




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