Editorial | Exercising soft power

For a small country like Malta, soft power is the only real power it can exercise to gain rele-vance on the world stage. Within this context, the only limit is our collective imagination


Malta may be the EU’s smallest country but time and again it has managed to punch above its weight in the international scene.

In 1967, Malta was still a fledgling independent country but this did not stop it from push-ing forward a brave proposal at the UN to regulate international waters.

Arvid Pardo had defined the ocean seabed as a common heritage of mankind, at a time when the US and the USSR were vying for world supremacy.

The Maltese proposal eventually led to the Law of the Sea, an international regulatory in-strument that continues to play an important part in maritime affairs.

It was Maltese ingenuity that pushed the UN to adopt the concept and to this day it re-mains a prime example of the soft power exercised by this tiny island nation.

More recently, Malta’s trail blazing equality drive has made the country a forerunner in LGBTIQ rights. The country has become an international reference point in this aspect, which it can leverage.

Soft power is a gentle approach to international relations, typically relying on economic, technological and cultural exports rather than military might.

For a small country like Malta, soft power is the only real power it can exercise to gain rele-vance on the world stage. Within this context, the only limit is our collective imagination.

The announcement yesterday of a Maltese film, telling the story of the Sette Giugno riots of 1919, is an important development in this regard.

Music, culture and the film industry have long been used as tools in the exercise of soft power by countries wanting to curate their image abroad.

The film, which will be marketed to international audiences, will not only be shot in Malta but will deal with a Maltese story.

Unlike the Hollywood blockbusters that have been shot in Malta over the years, where the island’s scenery and architectural landscape were used to mimic other locations, Storbju will be a Malta-specific production.

Film producer Jean Pierre Magro admitted being laughed at when he used to tell people that he wanted to make stories about the Maltese people.

The film will start being filmed next month and Magro believes it represents the dawn of a new period when the Maltese will set trends.

This may be a lofty ideal but the fact that the film has managed to rope in two renowned international actors is a mark of recognition.

English actor Malcolm McDowell, who appeared in A Clockwork Orange, and American actor Harvey Keitel, who starred in various films, including Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Taxi Driver, lend credibility to such a venture.

The producers are to be commended and government does well to support such initiatives of quality that will enable the country to continue exercising soft power through the cultural medium.

Malta and its history will be showcased internationally and in Culture Minister Owen Bonni-ci’s words, the film will be “a proud moment for the whole nation”.

The Maltese government, through the Malta Film Commission, must encourage Malta-centric films as much as the use of the island as a set replicating other locations.

This will not only benefit the film industry but the island as a whole, making introductions easier when dealing with foreign investors.

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