Cats of Malta

Cats of Malta
Cats of Malta
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The world has definitely evolved since the time when funny cat videos seemed to dominate the internet. Cats of Malta, a documentary directed by Sarah Jayne, is what has come out of the web’s first-ever tradition of kitten viral videos which have now become more serious and deeply emotional. Compiled only a few hundred meters below this beautiful country’s canals as bright skies look over them, every single one of these inhabitants provides for an hour long feature that tells their story about how they relate with the cat community.

With just a few minor mishaps here and there, Cats of Malta is still very much an entertaining show and tell spectacle. The overwhelming agreement in this documentary is that cats are healers of mind, body and spirit even though it calls for government supported feeding projects; financial assistance towards established non-governmental organizations; and raising awareness against underlying prejudice characterizing stray cats as vermin.

Jayne starts off her dive into St Julian’s seaside town with local people Michelle DeGuara and Salvu Gilson. There are other three cats near her that include Nanu, Silver, and Ginger who she keeps close relations with in Cats of Malta without wasting any footage showing true friendship between animals like these two species. With Gilson providing backup commentary, DeGuara recounts a time when she rushed Nanu to the vet (on her own accord) after witnessing the animal being hit by a car. After having one front leg amputated he continued to live carelessly going through restaurant leftovers or begging food from neighbouring anglers.

Interestingly enough at times participants in this double interview have different narratives creating an almost unnoticeable but compelling tension. An enthusiastic opening balances awkward pauses in this initial segment leading into what is often described as a pre-emptive emotionally rewarding experience within the documentary where characters on screen start making viewers question if they are watching real people.

Next comes Roza Salinos’ curbside Cat Village which forms part of the focus of this film by the director. It is easily noticeable how much these street cats have become like family to those who feed them for anyone watching Cats of Malta. These are some of her names for various cats around including Chuggin, Kashkin or Felix as if they were human relatives.

Having worked at a university for over 40 years, she knows that in times of trouble, people want the subtlety and agility represented by cats. In contrast to the first interview, her story reaches a higher emotional climax when it is revealed that there are plans by Hilton hotel (which is next door) to expand and take away her unique community. Unfortunately, this corporation succeeds and makes this woman suffer even more; she now has heartless shelter up the block where only coldly admits it won’t be same as before since most takers will not come back for their pets after having nothing better else to do than leave them at home when they go out.

When looking at the animal in a creative sense, viewers are introduced to Matthew Pandolfino, an artist who was hired by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA). Although this sequence does not connect well with the theme of the documentary as compared to past renditions, it still remains captivating from a narration point of view. Just seeing how Pandolfino carefully sprays his larger than life cat statues brings home Malta’s continued affinity towards her furry mates.

With such ceramic landmarks all over Malta, Jayne then cleverly intervenes at the end of Pandolfino’s story by using Bob, a big ginger cat with a regal stance and demanding personality. Despite this abrupt shift towards brief biographical presentation but it is justified because too much time had been spent on filming B-roll sequences and slow drone shots that made up for the sculptor’s lack of time. To balance out time though clips might have had to be done about pedestrians who met Bob and can tell their stories.

This discussion between March and Jayne also underlines why feeders need rules and admires those sanctuaries that only aim to help these generous animals. Even when her own cats like Erica or Tigger aren’t present; March happily goes beyond joyfulness when she recounts her own origin which began precisely on Christmas 2006. She has never stopped feeding cats since then.

March sees herself as an actress, a director, a teacher, cook and tin opener. This snapshot unveils an extremely tough woman while she is pouring water into one pot from another or just thinking about some sick stray animal dying due to its diseases.

The Cat Café is an exiting work that provides viewers with fresh insights about the cat population in Malta. It is said earlier by Jayne’s voiceover narration that there are about 450,000 people in the country on one hand and approximately 100,000 cats as well. When one sees two hundred House cats all meowing away inside a small sanctuary, it puts into perspective what the rest of the country must be like and why everyone in this film does what they do.

Borg and Coleiro, just to mention but a few members of the staff at “The Cat Café” also discuss why cats should be treated fairly. They mention how they had to take back some of their former pets for different reasons such as using them to catch mice or guard shops. They share with us some studies that have been conducted regarding cat therapy and recall an incident where a sick mother of a prime minister was rejuvenated by some cats from The Cat Cafe.

Beside making a mistake in the opening section and not handling Bob who acted like he was a King properly, Jayne’s documentary about human’s altruistic bond to animals quickly becomes an interesting journey through a very isolated country that found spiritual satisfaction engaging themselves with four legged felines.

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