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Sons of the Sea: The First Film Ever Shot in Malta

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Being one of the last art forms to be developed, cinema already has an endless legacy of great works. Yet, it is incredible when you consider the fact that the industry is just over a 100 years old! In Malta, it’s even younger. The first film to ever be filmed on the islands was shot in 1925 and it bore a very apt name for Malta’s first film. It was a silent film called the Sons of the Sea

The ‘Sons of the Sea’ Plot

The story revolved around the fictional story of two young gentlemen who decide to enroll in the Navy. The men are called Derek, who becomes a Navy Officer, and Bill, who is training to become a sailor. 

The drama commences as the Great War breaks out, and Derek is called out to fight in the Battle of Jutland. His fiance Diana is sent to Malta as she volunteers as a nurse to help with the war. 

They meet again in Malta after his ship is ordered to head to the islands, but he quickly embarks on a new mission. Diana is again left to wander the islands in search of some solace. Whilst doing so she gets kidnapped and used for a ransom. When Derek returns to the islands, he, his friend Bill, and his seamen, go to find Diana. Luckily, after a challenging struggle they manage to rescue her. 

The Production and Locations

The director, H. Bruce Woolfe, was originally a producer whose company produced documentary films and films around the first world war. The film was still made with a certain intention of glorifying the Navy. In fact, it was made with the help of the British Admiralty. 

The rock formations also known as Il-Qarraba at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay.

The shots of il-Qarraba are probably the most recognizable thing. It is no surprise that it was used as a location for filming, seeing as it is one of the most beautiful places on the island. 

There is also a strange but notable coincidence regarding the name of the film. In fact, it might not be a coincidence at all. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to fact-check this, but in the same year the film was released, the artist John Roberston Reid had died. He himself had created a painting entitled Sons of the Sea, which featured sailors on what looks like an island. Perhaps this was some form of inspiration for our director, who knows?

Recent Screenings and Trivia

In 2012, Heritage Malta and the Malta film commission teamed up and organized a screening of this film. Accompanying the screening was a talk by Jean Pierre Borg, whose research had unearthed the fact that this short British silent film happens to be the earliest known film to be shot on the islands. Borg is also the founder and chairperson of Filmed in Malta; a nongovernmental organization who works on archiving the beautiful history of filmmaking on the islands.  

The few original remaining reels of the film are archived at the British Film Institute in London. 

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