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Feature film adaptation of Maltese novel to hit cinema screens

The first feature film adaptation of the award-winning Maltese novel, called A Viper’s Pit, or better known as, Is-Sriep Reġhħu Saru Velenużi, by Alex Vella Gera, is set to hit cinema screens later this year, and we’re excited about it.

The story is set in 1984 and 2012, as the film treads the line between political thriller and family drama. It takes a long, hard look at the decades-old relationships between big business and politics in Malta, a combination that can lead to deadly consequences. At its core is a fictional assassination attempt on former prime minister Dom Mintoff’s life and the impact the conspiracy has on an inter-generational web of characters.

The film was funded by means of a collaboration between the National Book Council, Shadeena Entertainment Ltd and Splash Screen Entertainment. Spearheaded by Martin Bonnici, from Shadeena Entertainment, the project was the winner of the inaugural NBC Film Adaptation Fund back in 2019!

A Viper’s Pit has brought together over 50 talented artists and technicians from Malta, alongside the support of a number of Cypriot movers and shakers. With a budget of around €250,000, the film had to make its way through the tough times of COVID-19, shooting under strict and challenging conditions during the summer of 2020, with remote post-production work throughout the autumn and winter seasons.

“No debut feature film is easy, but restrictions placed on the production due to the ongoing pandemic did make things more daunting at times,” said the producer, director and cinematographer Martin Bonnici.

“However, thanks to the National Book Council support, our dedicated and talented team and supporters like Neriku Catering and MaltaBrew, we managed to put together a product we are extremely proud of,” he added.

In terms of the cast, Chris Galea has taken on the leading role of Noel Sammut Petri, who in 2012 returns to Malta from Brussels, to attend his mother’s funeral, only to begin uncovering some disturbing family secrets. The role of his father, Richard Sammut Pietri is played by Gianni Selvaggi and Roger Tabone, – a family friend and pivotal player in the assassination attempt – is played by Joseph Zammit.

Erica Muscat rounds off the main cast as Frances Tabone, while Tina Rizzo takes on the key supporting role of Maureen Sammut Petri.

The novel was first published in 2012. Publisher Chris Gruppetta recalls how “media attention to it was something pretty exciting, with an outdoor launch in Strait Street, Valletta, followed by blanket coverage all over the print, TV and online media, including a fully dedicated episode of the then-very popular Bondi+”. The novel has sold over 1,800 copies.

The adaptation process was then kicked off in 2017, with Teodor Reljic and Martin Bonnici working to turn the novel into a story fit for the screen. Initially slated for a spring 2021 release, the film is currently waiting for the lifting of restrictions, in order to be able to launch in local cinemas, as it starts its festival journey.

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