SIMSHAR || 2014, Malta || Drama || Directed by – Rebecca Cremona / Written by – Rebecca Cremona, David Grech / Produced by – Leslie Lucey, Angélique Muller, Simon Sansone / Music by – Ruben Zahra / Cinematography – Chris Freilich / Editing by – Daniel Lapira / Production design – Nina Gerada, Jonathan Hagos / Starring – Lofti Abdelli / Running time: 101 mins.
Credited as being the first ever Maltese entry in the Best Foreign Language category of the Oscars and the first fully Maltese production, Simshar is a film composed by intertwining stories in the midst of the tension caused by refugee crisis. One story follows a kid named Theo, as he embarks on his first fishing trip with his sea faring father, in which things go terribly wrong. At the same time, a medic dispatched onto a Turkish merchant vessel which has rescued a group of stranded African boat people between Malta and Italy gets stuch on the boat as the countries wage a bureaucratic was over who should take in the migrants.
Despite the fact that it is based on a true story, Simshar lacks a fundamental urgency due to a lenience towards a simplification of its subjects and themes. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t treat them respecifully. Neither is it a result of the choice in the visual approach, which unlike other films of the kind doesn’t use handheld, documentary-like shots, but more traditionally cinematic ones.
Rebecca Cremona denies Simshar its challenging nature by lowering its standards down to familiar storylines and having lazy, archetypes characters populate it. The most blatant example is the African man living in Malta and hired as one of the titular fishing boat’s crew members, who must fight off discrimination on a daily basis. His poise and lingo is so superficial and stereotypical, that he is not so different from the two dimensional, wise Muslim in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves played by Morgan Freeman.
Despite its undoubtable best intentions. Cremona’s film plays it far too safe, and in the process becomes dull. Simshar will most likely let down the expectations of those waiting to see a fresh and more direct take on a widely talked about topic, and instead get a mildly rewarding family drama roaming on all too familiar grounds. – 2/5