What had led you into film?
I have a clear memory of this. I was fifteen, studying for my O levels. I was a total nerd and proud of it (still am), and I really cared about the subjects I was studying and cared about doing well. Yet after, I was dying to get to my favourite book at the time – Isak Dinesen: The Life of A Storyteller; re-watch my favourite film – Alfonso Cuaron’s Great Expectations; and leaf through the new instalment of The Great Artists – a bi-weekly magazine my mother used to get which focused on painters through the ages.
At that point I thought, ‘These are my real studies.’ The next logical conclusion was that literature, art, philosophy – all the things I gravitated immensely towards – came together in the medium of film. Now when I look back, I don’t think I ever had a choice. For me, film has always been life and vice versa.
Every director wants to tell a story. How would you describe your style of storytelling?
My personal process is incessant observation and consumption – of art, literature, current affairs, people… I then find that something retains my interest very vividly, or starts to sprout many tangents, and that these tangents resonate with how I’m feeling and thinking during that period of time. The story then grows from there and is dictated by what I believe is the principal theme. My shorts, my commercial work and my first feature are all very different in genre, theme… etc. because I choose things which I fall in love with and feel are relevant at that moment, both on a personal and often socio-political level. Then the style must adapt to the story and characters, and not the other way round. Believing in the theme is essential, because so much time, effort and investment of all sorts goes into the work and you can only find that drive if you’re fully committed to what you’re saying.
How can the film director contribute to the up-keep of today’s society? What is their role in the grander scheme of things?
For me, film has many functions, and each function is equally important. Film serves to provide relief from the stresses of life; to shed light, explore and criticise pressing issues; to push and reinvent aesthetic boundaries; to question the emotional, philosophical and spiritual aspects of life… I think, given this plurality of function, film makers ought to use and maximise the particular potential of their work responsibly. It’s a privilege to be a film maker, as it’s a medium which reaches many people and, due to its verisimilitude to life in many ways, it tends to have a very strong impact on its audience. So one is responsible towards the audience, whether it be to entertain them, to raise awareness about certain issues, or to offer them a new aesthetic experience.
Credits to Josef Bonnici
If you had to direct your fantasy cast, who would make the credits?
There are several established actors of course, such as Kate Winslet or Michael Fassbender, but there are so many talented actors who are not in the limelight that way but still incredibly talented. During Simshar‘s international film festival tour, I met some wonderful up and coming actors, who as yet are mostly known either within the art house circuit or their country of origin, but I’d love to work with them in the future. Of course, working with non-actors is also a very special process and one which is close to my heart.
Credits to Kukumajsa Productions