Luzzu Director Alex Camilleri: “I Was Ready To Film Luzzu On An iPhone”
Maltese-American director, Alex Camilleri, says that if you have a story that you want to tell, and an innovative way to tell it, it’s up to you to find ways of getting it onto a screen.
Camilleri’s first upcoming feature-length film follows real-life fisherman Jesmark Scicluna as he navigates the difficult task of keeping his family afloat and a generational tradition alive. After a press screening ahead of its release this September, the director sat down with us to answer a few questions about the film and the process of its inception.
For years, it has been a sad yet widely accepted fact that if you want to be an artist in Malta, you’ll most likely need a secondary (or more likely, primary) job to help cover living costs.
Over the course of the past year, the situation has been markedly escalated due to the pandemic, aggravating the concerns that Malta’s economy is not built to sustain artists and that the government has been increasingly apathetic, leading to protests in front of parliament last month.
The most demoralising aspect of pursuing the arts in Malta is the lack of access to sufficient funding or financial aid being made available to budding filmmakers/theatre-makers/artists/dancers, etc. The pandemic dealt a massive blow to the livelihood of creatives. The concerns that have been voiced for years over the government’s apathy towards the cultural sector were sadly confirmed by the complete disregard given to the arts when announcing restrictions and measures over the course of the pandemic.
Football supporters flocked to the streets in thousands, yet theatres remained closed. Private parties were happening left right and centre, yet dance and performing arts schools were not allowed to open.
The culture in which most Maltese artists have had to navigate is a scene which Camilleri is not familiar with; having lived in the states since birth. It allowed him to come into this with an entirely fresh perspective. When I asked if he struggled with the aforementioned issues, Camilleri admitted that it is definitely an issue that there are so many stories waiting to be told, but not “the methods available to tell them”.
However, the American-Maltese director also confessed that the team's biggest liabilities were also their strengths; the Maltese language, non-actors, and the lack of artificial lights, preferring to use the Maltese sun as the primary light source. They knew from the beginning that this film would not be made for a lot of money, yet all of these aspects came together to make a Sundance Film Festival-worthy film, with beautiful cinematography and touching performances by fresh talent.
“The minute that you accept that money doesn’t make films, but people make films, you liberate yourself from the expectation that your film needs a dolly and a crane and a drone and all of the prestigious elements from the Hollywood films that have been shoved down our throats.” - Alex Camilleri
Whilst there have been plenty of films shot on location in Malta, there are a fraction which are actually Maltese films. Films like Luzzu will hopefully help usher in more opportunities and encourage young filmmakers to get their work out there.
Luzzu premieres on the 3rd of September, and opens for the public on the 8th.