The Lion’s Roar

A carved lion at the entrance to Malta's early capital city, Mdina.

There is something about the King of the Jungle, either as, the creature in person (animal!) or as carvings. I especially like to take pictures of them wherever I encounter them, as part of the Royal Coat of Arms, or featured on memorials, fountains, garden statues, crests, signs and what have you. Two of these great stone beasts are part of a memorial located at the Upper Barracca in Valletta, Malta. Every time I visit my old friends I take shots from every conceivable angle, high, low, close-ups, from a distance or focused on a specific line, a curve in the stone, a shadow or a crease. Add too difference in light, or for that matter night, and you will have some understanding or maybe question this penchant for stone cats.

When one walks along the streets, sidewalks, and alleys of Valletta or strolls along similar spaces at Mdina the carved cats can be found everywhere. They adorn the edifice, gables, stairs, fountains, gates and pillars. It is almost Scarlet Pimpernel-like, “I seek them here I seek them there I seek them everywhere.” So after taking 1001 shots, or more, of these magnificent guardians, I ask myself where on earth did this ever come from? I’ve always liked the creatures of the earth and even those I am not too thrilled about are here for a reason, but why lions?

The answer is film.

You see my interest in film is not just in the performance. I like openings, the very beginnings, and have also been known to sit through the entire closing credits. It is amazing, at the end of a film, when others do the same. We have become transfixed. We have paused, enraptured by the director’s eye and production, the silver screen has worked its magic yet again.

Historically there are two opening credits that I recall when I sat wide-eyed, likely shouting like all the others kids, and who cheered when the Saturday serials began. With the main feature a man appears who strikes a gong announcing this film as a J. Arthur Rank production (which incidentally has also led, for ever after, to one day strike a really big gong in a really big space!). Secondly, knowing that with every film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer there, within the scrolls and circlet of film (remember that medium?), Leo the Lion (there were others) introduced his studio and feature with a roar.

Exciting stuff for a kid living in Sardinia, snorkling at the beach almost every day, wondering what was really underneath Devil’s Saddle, looking at turrets that I am sure were built by Romans, and always imagining that it was an old Regia Aeronautica airfield that I attempted to play baseball on. Still those films we saw in Sardinia, from an old clickety-clack projector, remain in my memory. It was in Sardinia that I started watching moveis regularly, saw the man with the gong, and heard the roar of the lion. It was in Sardinia that I jumped from bunkers on the coast into the sand of the beach, heard stories about submarines and airplanes, and maybe, just maybe, linked film to lions, and both to history.

These stone cats I encounter, wherever they may be, are reminders of things that once were. They also remind me that 427 “Lion” Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force was sponsored by M.G.M. during the Second World War, they remind me of the film, “The Young Lions” (1958), and they remind me of a once younger lad whose imagination continues to take him to many places of memory.


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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