Dear Dom: a preview

In my student days, lessons in Maltese history had a massive failing. A good chunk of the previous four decades were invariably omitted. These were the Mintoff decades, years that left an indelible mark on the political and social path our country would take.

Judging by what I hear, few are the history teachers that dare delve into the subject. And perhaps until very recently this was understandable. Maybe those years, which were undeniably tumultuous no matter what your political allegiance, were still too close for comfort to be dealt with objectively.

The result is that we have a generation of people who were born after 1985 who have no idea of this aspect of our country’s history, save what they hear from family and friends. And which, let’s face it, is unlikely to be without personal bias.

Now someone has taken it upon himself to break this self-inflicted omerta. Pierre Ellul’s docu-film, Dear Dom, hits cinemas on March 23. I went in for the press viewing not really sure whether resurrecting events that are sure to provoke a strong reaction in viewers was really such a good idea.

Read more here.

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  1. Samantha Abela says:

    Lovely review. I agree with you that in Maltese History classes both general and option classes that part of history was left out. Recently though they are trying to introduce it by the time students reach form 5, hoping that at that age they will be able to understand the complexities behind the period and form their own opinion and not recycle what they hear at home. In my time, we didn’t learn about Mintoff and what we learnt about him in JC was solely related to the Church-State relationship (as a continuation of Strickland before him) and the economic plans essentially. There isn’t much time allowed in the syllabus to delve any deeper than that and at University the topic is practically non-existent. When students try to breach the subject at University they have to alter their point of view depending very much on the lecturer they have in front of them so as not to risk any negative mark for being too ‘biased’. This was the situation 2years ago essentially when I graduated in a B.A Hons History. Now that I teach the subject, I find it very difficult to discuss modern Maltese history with my students. Even when I attempted to explain why was the ‘Red China Dock’ built and I explained Mintoff’s point of view of ‘neutrality’ a number of students were concerned with pointing out that Mintoff left them without chocolate, with one brand of toothpaste etc… instead of listening to the explanation. My reaction in class was to point out that what they are saying isn’t wrong but that it had nothing really to do with what I was saying and that as such they have no right to recycle information without fully understanding the picture. I pointed out that what they were saying, especially the way they were saying it was too biased and that a person born in 1997-1998 could not have lived in those years to fully understand what it was like… not even I who was born in 1989 can do that…

    I hope that most schools invest some time and resources to send their form 4-5 students to watch this documentary. Pity that at the time most Form 5s would be busy with their O’levels… Maybe next year History teachers will be able to have more balanced discussions in class without students shouting at one another about political alliances and what not…

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