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Directors in Malta: Contemporary Movies Shot on the Island

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Film productions involve a communal creative effort in order to achieve a goal. That effort is usually described and spearheaded by the director. Some films have original scripts by script writers or the directors themselves. Others might be adaptations of books or theater pieces, but in the end the director tries his or her best to portray their interpretation of whatever they’re working with. Here is a list of some directors who worked in Malta.

Ridley Scott 

White Squall (1996), Gladiator (2000)

Ridley Scott is one of those directors that have proven that they can do anything. From adapting one of the greatest sci-fi movies with Blade Runner, to the beautiful road comedy movie Thelma and Louise. Now, he has even come out with a period biopic about Napoleon.

Scott’s relationship with Malta started with his lesser known film called White Squall. It used a horizon tank—a huge area built on sea used for filming scenes on the sea—on the coast of the island. The film is set in the Caribbean and so of course with the Mediterranean backdrop this works perfectly. Although perhaps not his best film, White Squall is an interesting amalgamation of a coming of age film in the context of a natural disaster. 

Four years after this film Scott returned to Malta to film Gladiator. This of course is probably one of the most famous locally-shot films and also a very much adored film. The crew had built on set a replica of about one-third of the Colosseum. The buildings were reportedly so big and perfect that set visitors felt transported to a completely different place and time. 

Unfortunately Oliver Reed—who at the time lived in Malta—died whilst he was having a couple of drinks in The Pub in Valletta. The tragedy occurred while production was taking place, and in fact the film is dedicated to his memory. 

Roberto Benigni 

Pinocchio (2002)

Roberto Benigni. Image was cropped. Attribution: Silviapitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re not familiar with Roberto Benigni, I highly suggest you look him up. The Italian actor-director is a fountain of knowledge and a very respected artist. Yet whenever he appears in front of a camera he seems to have the ability to turn the world upside down and get everyone laughing in the process. 

Benigni’s connection to Malta was his adaptation of the classic tale of Pinocchio. Except for the parts in Italy, most of the film was filmed on a set in Kalkara. 

Years later in 2008, after receiving an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of Malta he famously jumped on President Fenech Adami and gave him a big hug with all his jovial energy. It seemed everyone in the room simply accepted that this was normal, because it was Benigni. 

Steven Spielberg

Munich (2005)

Possibly one of the most well-known names in the world of cinema, Steven Spielberg has somehow touched most generations of people alive today with a multitude of memorable and loved films ever since he started working. 

His encounter with Malta happened for the filming of his 2005 thriller Munich. Spielberg notably remarked how he now understands ‘why so many Hollywood movie directors come to shoot in Malta’. Furthermore, he managed to film many scenes that were supposed to be set in several different Mediterranean countries in Malta. 

It was also a very particular instance because a lot of scenes were filmed on the roads and in towns and villages, and that was not something so common with the previous Hollywood productions that came to the islands. There is in fact one scene in the main square of Rabat, and I actually remember being in the vicinity on the day and I remember my father saying he had seen Spielberg on his way to work. 

Film studios in Malta. Image was cropped. Attribution: Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frauke Finsterwalder 

Sisi & I (2021)

To conclude this list of famous directors shooting in Malta we have filmmaker Frauke Finsterwalder whose black comedy Sisi & I explored the romantic relationship between a Hungarian countess and the Empress Sisi of Austria-Hungary. 

Finsterwalder’s film was her second feature. It’s a clear sign of a great upcoming talent. Unfortunately there’s not much information about her days on the island, as only a couple of scenes were shot here. 

Title image was cropped. Attribution: Yoni S.Hamenachem, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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