When it comes to polarising figures from Maltese history, not many people hold a candle to former Prime Minister Duminku Mintoff – and a new Maltese film is about to show him in a way you’ve never seen before.
A film adaptation of Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi, the 2012 Alex Vella Gera modern classic, revolves around a fictionalised plot to assassinate Il-Perit as well as the socio-political fallout of the tumultuous 1980s in Malta.
Produced by Shadeena Entertainment, directed and produced by Martin Bonnici featuring a script by Teodor Reljic, filming could begin as early as August 2020, COVID-19 restrictions permitting.
“Very often when we talk about Maltese history we focus on the colonisers who took over Malta throughout the millennia and barely touch upon our recent history and the challenges that Malta went through post-independence,” Bonnici said.
“Alex Vella Gera’s novel is one of only a handful of artistic works out there that dare to ask questions about the lingering impact of the ‘80s. Although the story is a fictional one, I felt it closely resembles the impact that our society’s unexamined history has on our present,” he continued.
Funding for the film was provided by the National Book Council, which awarded Bonnici and Reljic’s application with its inaugural Feature Film Fund in November 2019.
In awarding them the funding, the jury hoped the project would “invite debate upon, and interrogation of a moment in Malta’s social and political history that has resonance and reach, affording in the process a fluent basis for a film adaptation that promises broader public engagement with it”.
A long-gestating project for both Bonnici and Reljic, ‘Is-Sriep…’ has just cast its lead roles, assembling a veritable who’s who of local stage and screen talents.
Chris Galea will take on the leading role of Noel Sammut Petri, who in 2012 returns to Malta from Brussels to attend his mother’s funeral only to gradually begin uncovering some disturbing family secrets.
The role of his father Richard Sammut Petri will be played by Gianni Selvaggi, while Roger Tabone – a family friend and pivotal player in the assassination attempt – will be played by the prolific and versatile Joseph Zammit. Erica Muscat rounds off the main cast as Frances Tabone, while Tina Rizzo takes on the key supporting role of Maureen Sammut Petri.
While ambitious in scope, Bonnici will be approaching this feature-length adaptation of ‘Is-Sriep…’ with some precedent on his side. Working under the auspices of Sajjetta Ltd last year, Bonnici has already directed a short film version of an extract of the novel, featuring many of the same actors who will return for the full feature.
The short will run as part of the upcoming docu-series ‘Storja ta’ Storja’, set to air on TVM later this year.
“Sajjetta’s production of ‘Storja ta’ Storja’ gave us an opportunity to work with a variety of authors and the wealth of stories found in Maltese literature. We were lucky to be offered an opportunity to examine a part of Alex Vella Gera’s novel for the project and put some of the years worth of examination and work we did on the novel to use in a shorter format,” Bonnici said.
Vella Gera’s novel became one of the most talked-about releases in recent contemporary Maltese fiction after its publication in late 2012.
Arriving hot on the heels of Vella Gera’s involvement in a censorship polemic that nearly landed the author in jail and subsequently played a part in overturning Malta’s censorship and obscenity laws for good, the appropriately bi-lingual novel garnered much praise for its honest dissection of Maltese middle-class mores, and eventually won the National Book Prize in 2013.
With ‘Is-Sriep…’ now getting the green light, modern Maltese film might be about to take a whole new interesting turn.