Culture
Malta and movies - a film industry a century in the making
Is Malta about to host its own generation of local productions?

Melanie Drury

By now, most of us have learned that Hollywood loves Malta. And not just Hollywood. Film-makers from all over the world are drawn to Malta's amazing topography, old cities and seaside locations as a backdrop for their plots and stories. Such scenery for the set is also supported by great weather, easy access to multiple locations in a single day, English-speaking (and experienced) local crew and extras, a superb water tank facility at Fort Ricasoli and many more appealing incentives for the film industry, including financial ones. 

All is managed by the capable hands of the Malta Film Commission (MFC) since its inception in 1999, although Malta’s history as a destination for film production goes back almost a century! The Malta Film Studios was officially established in 1964. Previously known as Malta Film Facilities, Mediterranean Film Studios and endearingly as Rinella Film Studios, the Malta Film Studios is one of the largest production facilities in the world. It has serviced over 200 feature films, television movies, documentaries and commercials and has an outstanding track record. 

Favourite locations include Fort Ricasoli, Mdina, Valletta, Ghajn Tuffieha and the Azure Window, while the Popeye Village theme park is the original film set from the film Popeye (1980) starring Robin Williams. 

The ever-growing film industry in Malta has brought the likes of Antonio Banderas (swoon!), Anthony Hopkins (Alexander | 2004) and Sean Connery (The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen | 2003) to our shores. Brad Pitt is officially in love with the islands, shooting in Malta on multiple productions. Oliver Reed famously died in Malta on 2 May 1999 during a break from filming Gladiator. 

Not to brag, but Steven Spielberg himself has stated that Malta was "a great film location" after completing Munich (2005). Not surprising, then, to discover that Malta has ranked the 81st most filmed country in the world.

You'll have heard of these box office successes that were filmed in Malta within the past two decades. If you're a local, you were probably at the cinema squinting to recognise the locations (like the rest of us) in films such as Assassin's Creed (2016), By the Sea (2015), Captain Phillips (2013), World War Z (2013), Kon-Tiki (2012), Sinbad (2012), The Devil's Double (2011), Agora (2009), The Da Vinci Code (2006), Munich (2005), Troy (2004), Alexander (2004), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Gladiator (2000) and many, many others.

And who doesn't know that Season 1 of Game of Thrones (2011) was filmed in Malta? More recently, Season 3 of Queen of the South (2018) has even featured Malta as itself. 

Perhaps the best-known film from Malta's earlier film-making history is Midnight Express (1978), which was famously shot at Fort St Elmo. Vendetta for the Saint (1969) starring Roger Moore was also filmed in Malta. Other big hits from the past include Clash of the Titans (1981) and Cutthroat Island (1995)

We traced the earliest filming in Malta to a short documentary called The Island of Malta (1910) and the first full-length feature film as Sons of the Sea (1925), however there may be earlier ones. Below you can see Mdina Gate as featured in Bolibar (1928)! Since the early beginnings, over 200 international films were shot in Malta, so we're not about to list them all, but you can take a look at Wikipedia's list and the list of films in the Malta Film Commission's portfolio.

The award-winning Simshar (2014), a fiction story inspired by a 2008 fishing boat tragedy, was Malta's first home-grown, full-length feature film for an international audience. Another more recent home-grown is The Boat (2020), a creepy thriller that charts the terror-filled adventures of a fisherman who is played by Maltese actor Joe Azzopardi. This has just been screened to local audiences and it kept them on the edge of their seats. 

In the meantime, Lazarus (2020), a short film shot at the Nativity Village at Ghajnsielem and the Xwejni salt pans in Marsalforn, is being funded by the Malta Film Commission with an intent to be pitched to Netflix as a fully-fledged series! After almost a century of being a fantastic set for international productions, is Malta out to host a generation of local productions for international audiences?

15th March 2020


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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