Cats of Malta came about after director Sarah Jayne (Machination, Life Improvised: Volume One) relocated from Australia to the island nation to discover her family’s roots. What she discovered was cats, lots and lots of cats. How many cats is that you ask? There are an estimated hundred thousand stray cats sharing the country with its four hundred and fifty humans.
Intrigued by the presence of the felines almost everywhere she went, she began interviewing the people who help feed and care for them That’s something I can relate to, Mandy and I have four inside cats and put up shelters and food for the frequently changing cast of feral and abandoned cats who live in the valley behind us.
The film begins with the story of Naanu, who lost a leg after being kicked by an irate dog owner. The couple who found him tell of the problems of catching him, getting him to a vet and caring for him after the leg was removed until he was well enough to literally escape back to the streets. None of that indoor life for him. The story is punctuated by shots of the still thriving Naanu and two other cats, Silver and Ginger, with whom he shares his territory.
That pretty much sums up the style of Cats of Malta. Unlike Kedi which focused mostly on footage of the cats of Istanbul with occasional commentary from humans, Cats of Malta is interview driven and lets the humans do the talking. That puts the focus on the interviewees and their interaction with cats rather than on the cats themselves. And while interesting, most of what we hear are things we’ve heard before.
We get talking head interviews with various people involved with the island’s cat population and lots of footage of the cats themselves which frequently distracts one’s attention from the story being told. The stories being told range from Rosa Zammit Salinos whose safe space for the cats is threatened by developers to Matthew Pandolfino, an artist working on restoring a giant cat sculpture he created for a city park years before.
There’s also Polly March, an actress who was born in Malta but raised and lived in the UK until a trip there to see her sister became a permanent move. Now she feeds and arranges for the neutering of strays to help keep the population down. On the other end of the age scale, there’s Isaac Muscat who feeds the local cats and wants to become a pilot because they make lots of money. And he would use it to build a home for all the strays. And that in turn is what Karmen Colerio and Caroline Borg have done with Animal Guardians, a shelter which features a cat cafe to help find homes for the little guys.
Unfortunately, Cats of Malta doesn’t have much depth. There’s a brief bit of talk about the mental health benefits of being around cats. And a couple of the interview subjects talk about why some people are so hateful towards cats. A bit of background on why the island has such a large feral population would have been helpful. And while it’s mentioned in passing, more on anything being done on an official level would have been nice. As it stands, it’s an enjoyable diversion that should keep cat lovers occupied for its hour long running time. Others however may feel like they’re watching a tourist film at times.