Gozo and Comino’s natural beauty and paradisal Mediterranean landscapes have incited several international producers to choose them as filming locations, and feature them in their movies and TV productions.
Malta’s sister island, Gozo has been receiving substantial interest from the filming industry, stepping into the spotlight when it featured in the movie ‘By the Sea’, a story of a troubled husband and wife, released in 2015; a drama film written by Angelina Jolie and starring herself and Brad Pitt. The movie gave the island abundant coverage, featuring mostly the tranquil seclusion of Mġarr ix-Xini; the idyllic bay transformed to look like a picturesque French seaside location during the mid-1970s. That same year Mġarr ix-Xini was singled out as one of ten places in the world which should be visited before they change for ever.
Released in 2003, BBC’s biographical drama ‘Byron’ based on the adult life of English poet Lord Byron features two other locations in Gozo. The old fortified Citadel doubles for an 1811 Greek fortress while the splendid red-ochred sands of Ramla l-Ħamra bay host one of the most dramatic instances in the drama, the flaming funeral pyre of the poet Shelley.
Serving as a backdrop, the famed Azure Window at Dwejra has also appeared in a number of big budget movies and TV series including the 1981 film ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ in 2002. Arguably the most popular of which is the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones‘ (2011-2019), where it serves as the set of the iconic Dothraki wedding feast between Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen in episode 1. Unfortunately the arch was lost to the sea in March 2017 amid heavy storms.
Likewise, Malta and Gozo’s little sister Comino has also featured in several productions. In the big-budget 2004 movie ‘Troy’ starring Brad Pitt as the Greek warrior Achilles, Comino’s Blue Lagoon with its dazzling blue waters and limestone backdrop features in the scene between Achilles and his sea nymph mother Thetis. The fluorescent waters also appear for a diving scene in ‘Swept Away’ (2002) featuring Madonna, in her attempt to become a cinematic icon, and host a spearfishing scene in the 2003 miniseries ‘Helen of Troy’ based upon Homer’s story of the Trojan War.
Perhaps more famously, Comino appeared in Alexander Dumas’ infamous story of betrayal and revenge ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ in the 2002 movie adaptation. In this box office success, starring James Caviezel and Guy Pearce, the Santa Marija Tower takes centre stage doubling as the exterior of the French prison fortress Château d’If. The movie also features the unique elephant rock, used as one of the clues on the map to get to the hidden treasure on Monte Cristo, and also another of Comino’s marvels: the cavern with the indoor pool, used as the place where the fabled treasure is concealed.
The accessible coastal inlets, varied architecture and authentic historical settings and backdrops are all factors that contribute in making the islands appealing to filmmakers and TV drama producers. Adding these to the superb climate and the multi lingual local community, it is no wonder that the islands have been amongst favourites with producers and stars of Hollywood for more than 50 years.