Friday 20 April 2018


We don’t need another hero

In his article about Dear Dom, Mark Montebello calls it a superficial, banal and insolent film because it has not explored the psychological complexity of the man.

Others such as Mark Camilleri have written about it even though they have refused to watch it, which I find downright perplexing – how can you speak about something you have not seen for yourself?

Then there are the countless Mintoff admirers online who are urging each other to boycott the film altogether as a form of protest.

On the opposite side of the spectrum it seems that there are those who are disappointed that the film did not delve into the political violence “enough”, although I do wonder what enough for them would be.

For all the criticism it has received,  Pierre Ellul should be pleased that people are at least talking about it, for it would have been worse had his documentary film been completely ignored. Unfortunately,  however, I doubt whether this is the type of debate Ellul wished for.

The reason that so many cannot speak about Mintoff coherently without choking on their hatred or adulation (depending on which way you view him) is because the man was elevated into hero worship status.

That pedestal, those heights, have given him a greater aura than almost any other politician in Maltese history – and this is precisely why he seems to be so untouchable. Everything he ever did, whether good or bad, has been so amplified and magnified that many of us cannot  see or think straight where he’s concerned.

I’m not going into the whole Mintoff debate again – what concerns me is why some voters feel the need to create demi-gods out of their politicians. After all, they are mere mortals like the rest of us. And like us, they have their failings.

But if you speak to those who adored Mintoff they absolutely do not want to hear about the less attractive side to his character. They go to great lengths to justify his every impulsive action, his every gruff response, his every ill-advised decision. I suppose it’s because people need heroes in their lives, and a hero, by the very nature of the term is supposed to be “perfect”.

But heroes are best suited for action films not for the running of a country. What we need are good leaders who do not let their own status as Prime Ministers go to their heads. And as voters what we need to do is to stop licking the boots of power, and sucking up to politicians because we want something from them in return.  They have been elected to do a job, and to be held accountable for when they fail – if they deliver their reward is that they will be re-elected. But when they let us down and take wrong decisions, we should be able to criticise them without all this angst.

No one should be untouchable.

  • Ramon Casha

    Good article. Which leads me to wonder, how can we create history books that adequately teach Maltese history and provide an objective, factual picture of people like Mintoff or EFA, so that it can be taught in schools to all students?

    • Victor Laiviera

      Not through regime-sponsored moc(k)umentaries about the regime’s political bête noire, that’s for sure.

  • Nick

    I think a lot of political fanatics in Malta should just move to North Korea. They’d love the system there. They’d feel right at home. Baaa.

  • Jessica Borg

    Good one Nick! :)

  • Victor Laiviera

    There are two sides to every coin. Yes, there were some who made a god out of Mintoff – but for every one of those there were two who tried to make a monster out of him. But that seems to be ok – the norm. It’s only the people who try to rebut the vile exaggerations, the half truths and outright lies (like the allegation that he wanted to introduce a clause approving violence in the constitution) that become Pavlovian dogs.

    Makes you sick.

    • Victor you keep repeating that comment about Pavlovian dogs but if you read my post entitled “A Pavlovian Reaction” where I used that expression, you will realise I never called anyone a “dog”. I was referring to Nationalist supporters who have a Pavlovian reaction…here is the exact quote: “Nationalist supporters, on the other hand, brought up on a brainwashed diet to hate Mintoff for his authoritarian-style of leadership and all the deprivations he made us endure because of his misguided economic policies, have a violent Pavlovian reaction at the mere mention of his name.”
      I’m afraid you are so overly touchy on the subject of partisan politics that you interpret everything as being directed at you or Labour supporters – which as you can clearly see from the above, is not the case. Even if the term was meant offensively (which it was not, since it is merely a well-known expression), it is PN supporters who should have objected at my use of it, not you!

  • Tony Brincat


    You repeat ad nauseum the same thing over and over again.

    Ellul’s film shows both side of the coin. Go and see the film before making any further comments. You are one of those who have passed judgement, calling it names and making assumptions without seeing it. You have also supported the opinions of others whose political bias are well known. All from a position of ignorance. If you can’t get yourself to see it then at least have the courtesy not to comment.

    I saw the film and no PN propoganda would have resurrected the interdict story that’s for sure. You might find it difficult that there are people out there who are not blinkered by political parties, but this is one case which proves that it is possible.. There is hope after all.

    • Victor Laiviera

      I’m still waiting for that bottle of champagne you promised me. :)

      I don’t have to actually see the film. It is enough to know that,

      a) It was financed through the OPM,

      b) the main historical consultant was Prof. Joe Pirotta, one of the PN’s main gatekeepers at PBS, and

      b) the only archives consulted (apart from video archives) were The Times and The Sunday Times.

      What would you say about someone who tries to write the history of the PN using exclusively the pages of L-Orizzont and Il-Ħelsien?

  • Joe

    People get terribly emotional when topic ‘Mintoff’ is brought up. Josanne is one of the very few peopIe I know who has a balanced perspective and seems objective when she speaks of the man. Can’t the people who say that Mintoff did nothing good realise that they can’t be possibly right? At the same time can’t those who see him as a demigod realise how blinkered they are?

    In my opinion Mintoff was very good for Malta during the first part of the 1970s… but then, as often happens, it all turned pear shaped.

  • Joe

    On re reading I noticed that Josanne used the word ‘adored’. I distinctly remember going into people’s houses when I was still a child and seeing framed pictures of Mintoff with flowers and a burning candle in front!

  • Tony Brincat

    Victor you are tedious – and arrogant to boot. First of all in the alphabet (c) comes after (b) not another (b).
    Secondly, you are citing Mark Camilleri when you quote what sources the film used. Mark again is yet another person who had the gall to do a review on the film without seeing it (what planet do you people live on!). The National Archives in london were also a source for example – and there are probably others. Bibliographies are for academic dissertations and books not for films! One of the main exponents i nthe film is Lino SPiteri. He is given more than his fair share of screen time and in fact he is given the opportunity to explain away some of Mintoff’s most controversial actions. Violence beign the 6th point in one of the drfts he presented is precisley one such issue Lino tackles. So if Lino had to explain it, it must have existed in the first place. So I think it is you who owes me the champagne mate! actually send it to Josanne – she seems one of the few who have her blinkers off. Enough said. I won’t get into any further discussion with you until you go and see the film. Then we can talk.

  • Mars bars

    @ Victor Laiviera.
    1) You’re criticising a film you haven’t watched.
    2) If someone who is a Nationalist was involved in the film, then you automatically conclude that the film is rubbish. How does that make you different from Julian Galea – the Sliema councillor who said that he has a phobia of all Labourites?
    3) The film was funded (part of it) by the Malta Arts or Film Fund. So what? Can you show me that the same fund was used only for Nationalists and for Nationalist propaganda? If not, what on earth has stopped the Labour Party from producing a documentary on Mintoff, Borg Olivier, Fenech Adami or whatever tickles your fancy – and requesting funds? Only then – if they refused to give you funds – could you conclude that the Labour Party was discriminated against. You know what I think? That you’re annoyed because someone has made a film about Mintoff – and the Labour Party hasn’t managed to. And whose fault is that?????? The Pavlovian Nationalist dogs again????

  • Tony Brincat

    Laiviera ma sei proprio scemo…….. credits are not a bibliography!!!!! This is film not a book. Bibliographies are for books. If you are ignorant about a subject, as you evidently are about the medium of film, best keep quiet and learn.

    Andrew who? just because you’re not the only one mistaken on the six points it doesn’t add credibility to your position. Repeating it a thousand times doesn’t make it true. Speaking of sources, Lino Spiteri is a pretty solid one. Or are you going to say that Lino is lying?…Let it go Victor. if you are not gentleman enough to admit when you are wrong there really is no point entering into any discussion with you.

    I am no Nationalist (or Labourite for that matter) as I don’t define myself by a political credo but people like you have the capacity to make me become one.

    • Victor Laiviera

      Keep you hair on Mr Brincat (I will not be uncouth an call you “Brincat”). Bluster never impressed me and personal invective is a sure sign of a weak position.

      I’m sure that if the producers of this moc(k)umentary had consulted other sources besides The Times and The Sunday Times they would have said so – in fact, they would have emphasised it, to boost their credibility.

      Regarding the six points, I have backed up my statements with original documents and references to world famous authors. Mr Azzopardi (whom I do not know personally) has gone even further into the matter and written a very cogent piece.

      You, on the other hand, seem to consider only one source, which turns out to be just a passing footnote in a book and one, moreover, which the author himself has indicated, in this very blog, may not be all that reliable due to a less than perfect memory.

      Your call.

  • Victor Laiviera
  • Tony Brincat

    meaning what? Mr Spiteri comes across as a coward who has set the director up as the fall guy…..and this after Mr Ellul gave him more than his fair share of screen time. Talk about taking a cheap shot! Nowhere does Mr Spiteri state that he was part of Mintoff’s cabinet so it is also his own legacy he is talking about. Also Mr Spiteri does not belie the 6 punti issue you keep going on about. Victor until you have seen the film you have no place in any discussion on it. you’d be surprised to see that Lino Spiteri comes across really well and is given the opportunity to explain away and even justify certain actions that Mintoff did. This is why in my opinion mr Spiteri was extremely unfair in this appraisal. Also the interdict is given a lot of coverage and he himself was interviewed on it so to complain about that when he could have spoken about it himself is a bit low. But then you wouldn’t know right because you haven’t seen the film. Mr Spiteri seems to think that his should be the last word on every subject in the film. But he is not the oracle. No-one is. The film represents viewpoints of events that happened – different ones and tries to highlight the different emotions that mintoff conjurs up to today. From the reactions to the film it seems it was successful in this regard. Over and out.

    • Victor Laiviera

      How amusing – one minute you use Spiteri as unimpeachable reference then, as soon as he says something you disagree with, he becomes a coward.

      You are not worth wasting any more time on.

  • Tony Brincat

    This is an objective review by a columnist who makes observations on various political matters

    and she can be objective as she was not part of Mintoff’s cabinet.

    Note Dr Spiteri writes: “Pierre Ellul’s film is a must-have in your movie library. It may be hard for Mintoff’s immediate family to be objective and they have every right to their opinion. But trust me when I tell you this film does not do a disservice to the man. It is a testament to his multitalented, often misguided and misunderstood brilliance, as the most powerful, most controversial and consequential man Malta has seen yet and may never see again.”

    On my part I think it is a shame that this discussion has been hi-jacked by the fundamentalist element in the Labour camp. The not so fundamentalist actually appreciated it. This is a local initiative of real quality of which there is a dearth and work like this should be encouraged.

  • Tony Brincat

    from yet another of those Che Guevara wannabees – who never get anything done but criticise others. I don’t know if they even realise how arrogant they sound as they grandstand from behind the safety of their computers “Malta’s primary course of fresh thinking” – huh!

    Oh I see…… feel you relate to them as that is what you do. Now if you still can, grow a beard and your hair a bit and you will fit straight in – except I doubt that they would want you in their company.

    And speaking of cherry picking…….. your darling Lino discussed the 6th point you say did not exist – so again are you saying he is lying?

    Go play poker elsewhere Victor – you seem to have lots of time on your hands to scour the net to dig out such articles. There are always going to be people who criticise, whatever one does. And there are those who do nothing but criticise ‘ghax taghhom biss tajjeb – imbaghad ma jaghmlu xejn’.

    What we have here is a film, and it is about time people just got over themselves and see it as just that, a film. A film that does show two sides of the coin and not just the one you would like to see. So get over it. And Yes it is a film that sets new standards in quality cinema making in Malta – whether or not you like the angle that it takes. It certainly must have hit a chord as there hardly is anyone who hasn’t expressed their twopence worth on it.

    • Victor Laiviera

      Just out of curiosity, why do you come across as being furious all the time? Do you always get this angry when someone disagrees with you?

      I see that,, as far as you are concerned, columnists/bloggers are only “objective” when they sat what you want them to say. Otherwise they are “Che Guevara wannabees”.

      And you have the gall to accuse me of being blinkered.

  • Tony Brincat

    No need to exxaggerate or use superlatives. But yes pigmindedness and the inability of one to have a decent discussion annoys me Victor. I haven’t seen one comment from you, and you post many, which does not give away your bias or which vaguely attempts to have an open mature discussion.

    • Victor Laiviera

      In the words of the immortal Robert Burns, “Oh would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us”.

      I see my comments as moderate and reasonable and I always try to back them up with quotes, references, links and scans from original documents.

      You, on the other hand, and taking the “six points” argument as an example, tried to ram your opinion down our throats on the basis of one single reference which turns turns out to be just a passing footnote in a book and one, moreover, which the author himself has indicated, IN THIS VERY BLOG, may not be all that reliable due to a less than perfect memory.

      Now you will probably reply to this with another rant, but you can save yourself the time and trouble – I am singularly unimpressed by rants.

  • Mars bars

    @ Victor Laiviera. Why are Labour apologists like you always moaning and moaning about the big bad Nationalist spin machine and never having the know how to have a half-decent PR machine of your own?

    • Victor Laiviera

      Just this once, I will reply although I do not usually engage with anonymous trolls.

      The reason is that the PL does not have the ample funds which the PN obtains from its speculator/developer friends and which are then paid back a hundredfold from public funds in the form of buddy-contracts.

      For example, it is a matter of record that former Enemalta official Joe Mizzi was paid a commission of €4 million to help BWSC win the power station contract by “tapping people high on the political ladder”. Do you REALLY think he was allowed to keep them all – or even most of them?

      Now, if you want to participate in the discussion, try to find some guts and show your name.

  • Mars Bars

    @Victor Laiviera. Dear Dom was funded by Pierre Ellul personally AND partially by the Malta Film Commission. If the Labour PR machine had half a brain they could have done the same thing. Had they been refused a grant THEN they could start moaning about discrimination. Instead, they do nothing and then moan when the PN does.
    – Talking about the funds which political parties get from speculators/developers, raed this extract from Maltatoday (16/10/2010)
    “Days later, MaltaToday revealed that Charles Polidano – the leading developer occasionally reviled by the Labour – had built Super One’s roof for free, while sister paper Illum revealed that a company owned by Zaren Vassallo had also issued a Lm5,000 donation to the PL.”

    Imbasta ma tiehdux flus mill-izviluppaturi.

    • Victor Laiviera

      Thank you for admitting that “Dear Dom” is the work of the PN.

  • Tony Brincat

    trust you Mr laiviera to take a not so developed line of thinking and make it a fact.

    Have you not realised that the PN PR machine is so comatose that they haven’t even taken advantage of the total ass of herself that Yana Bland made in her interview on the Sunday Times.

    Do you honestly think any PN propoganda would cover the interdict or speak of Mintoff’s achievements in the early 70s. Go on try and be fair for a change. You say you back up what you write yet you are one of those omniscent who know all without seeing.

    Dear Dom was funded by malta film fund, falkun films (ellul’s company) and a friend of ellul. Not everthing in this country is the domain of the political parties. There are a few independent minded people in this country – so please leave it at that.

    • Victor Laiviera

      It is a matter of public record that the Film Fund (read the government, read OPM) provided about €54,000.

      Nw you say that the company and “a friend” also chipped in.

      What are we talking about here – a remake of “Titanic”, perhaps?

  • Tony Brincat

    titanic cost about US$250 million

    you really don’t have a clue do you

    • Victor Laiviera

      And you need to look up the word “sarcasm”.

  • Mars bars

    @Victor Laiviera…running scared and avoiding the topic of how speculators PUMP money to your beloved Labour Party just as much as they pump into GonziPN????

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