The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

African Filming comes to Malta

Malta Independent Saturday, 17 September 2005, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

Kennedy Richard, better known as ‘Casey’ to his friends, has been living in Malta for the past 15 years. He has long been looking for the opportunity to create a niche market here and it looks like he has finally found one. He spoke to Gerald Fenech on his latest venture, the shooting of a top notch African production in Malta on location

Meeting Kennedy Richard (photo) is quite a pleasant experience on all counts. He radiates warmth and enthusiasm and is quite an enchanting character, full of smiles and good humour. Kennedy is obviously quite enthusiastic about his new project that will not only be a first for Malta but is also relatively new to Europe; the shooting of an African movie on location.

But how did Kennedy decide to take on such a daunting project and why choose Malta?

“I have been living in Malta for over 15 years, initially starting out as a disc jockey where I managed to ply my trade with moderate success. After that, I began bringing African dancers to Malta and also dabbled in some cultural projects. I then teamed up with one of the best African film directors, Tchidi Chikere and we came up with the idea of shooting a film in Malta. The title is Johnny to the West and deals with the ongoing saga of Africans crossing over to Europe in the hope of a better life”, Kennedy explains.

Johnny to the West is indeed topical as with the current wave of irregular immigrants flocking over to our island, there is immense interest in the subject. What exactly is the plot of the film though?

“Basically the film is based on a situation where Africans are trying to leave their homeland in search of better pastures. A prince falls in love with a peasant girl and when his family finds out, they burn the girl’s house and kill all her family. When the girl discovers that she has nothing left, she decides to elope with the prince. They then leave to Europe through the Sahara Desert where most of the film takes place with lots of dialogue between the prince and the girl who finally settle on the continent with the film coming to a happy ending”, Kennedy explains.

Was the film inspired by the myriad voyages currently being undertaken by thousands of Africans who are set out to achieve a better life?

“Definitely and I can also confirm that this story is actually based on a true story. We have also included some extras from Malta and these are refugees whom I have spoken to at length and we have shared experiences so the film is all the more authentic.

The film is being shot principally at Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo which will double as the Sahara Desert, the Castello dei Baroni in Wardija which will serve as the King’s Palace and some use will also be made of the Rinella Film Facilities where an African village will be constructed.

“We are also going to use our own speedboats for the chase sequences but facilities are excellent here. However, I must say we have been held up getting clearance for those actors who are to come to Malta for filming. We have been waiting for the necessary papers for over three months and if the film does not happen, it will be bad news for all involved as a lot of promotion has gone into the project”, Kennedy said.

Filming was supposed to start by mid -July but these logistical difficulties have hampered the process.

“I am terribly late but am hoping to start filming by late September. As soon as this film gets off the ground, I can reveal that we have at least ten prepared scripts and another 20 possible African movies on paper. This will be a huge opportunity for Malta as it is the first film actually to be shot here and only the second in Europe. I can confirm that there are a host of directors who are waiting to see the impact of this film so that they can invest in other projects”, Kennedy said.

Kennedy is upbeat about the facilities available at the Rinella Movie Park and he is very keen to move on.

“I can say that as soon as we finish this film, we will embark on another one called Back to my Roots which tells the story of an African American who goes back to his ancestor’s country to claim a kingdom. The main part will be taken by the famous Maltese-American former basketball player, Don Ross who is also playing the part of the King in Johnny to the West, Kennedy added.

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