Reality versus Truth

Back in the seventies the series Il-Madonna taċ-Ċoqqa was aired on national TV. What caused scandal was a scene with the actors Jane Marshall and Lino Mintoff, in which Jane is wearing a nightie. It is implied that the character she is interpreting has slept with the priest, played by Lino. Lo and behold all hell broke loose and Jane Marshall started getting all sorts of threats and insults so much so that she had to leave the country for fear of her well being and that of her family. Fast forward to 2020 and we have Pia Zammit, an actress trying to prove in court that she is not a Nazi sympathiser. Of course she was just portraying a role in the play Allo Allo. Let that sink in slowly.

The inability of people to see this, especially those who should know better, like the editor of It-Torċa Victor Vella, where all this started, shows a lack of progress in mentality and how we need drama more than ever. Having people act and getting into someone else’s shoes would prove helpful in a society where judging and running to conclusions have become a national sport. Social media plays a huge part in showing the darkest side of some people who are able to sit comfortably at home protected behind a screen, totally oblivious of the harm their words are conveying.

The Pia Zammit sentence can lead to a new way of censoring, with actors thinking twice about what characters they can portray as people might actually think they are like that in real life. We still have a large chunk of the country who hardly know what satire is. All hell breaks loose if anyone dares what they perceive as ‘insulting’ their gods- politicians. This lack of critical thinking coupled with lack of empathy is a breeding space for a country with no imagination, creativity or thinking out of the box. Everything is taken at face value and is boringly dull and real. 

The fact that Pia Zammit is an Occupy Justice activist was repeated over and over by sections of the media, barely mentioning that she is also an actress. The focus on her activism makes this sentence sound like payback just for being that. Anyone who doesn’t follow the masses, who creates ‘trouble’ and who isn’t a yes man will get their share of trouble. They will dig into your past and conjure anything up just to – not so subtly – shut you up. 

The deafening silence from Minister Jose Herrera is also alarming as this may imply that he is backing this sentence in the usual min mhux magħna kontra tagħna mentality. Theatre, like literature, should challenge, provoke and help your mind think and question. The importance of the arts is not stressed enough anywhere in Malta starting from schools and in the art world itself. Many still view it as a hobby which you do for fun, not a proper job. This needs to change and this change has to stem from theatre itself. Actors have to be paid. All of them.  Doing work for exposure is not in a world of social media in which you can get all the free exposure that you want. In schools, arts drama and music should be given more importance, not viewed as a waste of time. It is indeed a shame that they do not share the prestige of maths and science. The arts are a way of expressing ourselves, they teach us that we should never shut up.

Sandra Gauci
ADPD Executive Committee Member