Not everyone is cheering the release of the trailer for Storbju, a film about Sette Giugno featuring Hollywood heavyweights Harvey Keitel and Malcolm Mcdowell, with Malta’s ex-film commissioner Oliver Mallia taking to Facebook to question the process by which the film was funded.
“All film aid schemes available in Malta such as the Cash Rebate, the Malta Film Fund etc were notified and approved by the Commission before they were made available to producers. However, there is no information about the ad hoc aid provided to this film,” he said.
“Perhaps Arts Council Malta could publish such approval? After all we’re talking about aid of €500,000 to one company.”
According to Mallia, Storbju received four times the amount of funding than any other film company in Malta in 2019 from the Malta Film Fund.
He also claims that it’s more than the entire amount distributed by the same fund last year.
“A portion of the fund, €120,000, was also awarded to this film leaving only some €350,000 available to be shared amongst all other applicants,” Mallia continued.
There is no clear indication of whether the half a million euro funds for the blockbuster film were approved state aid or a direct business deal made between private companies and the council.
If the latter, Mallia warned that it’s a precedent that created a distorted market and unequal playing field for local producers.
“Our reality is somewhat very different to this film. The business deal, the government is not an investment firm that provides cash without approval,” Mallia told Lovin Malta.
“Whoever applied for the film fund last year was at a disadvantage for the simple reason that one of the members of the evaluation board, who happens to be Chairman of the Arts Council, is also a director of the company producing the film, and awarded it €120,000.”
Last year, renowned film producer Pierre Ellul also spoke out against the use of public funds to fund Storbju, sarcastically thanking the government for gifting €500,000 of taxpayers’ money to select producers “while the rest of us mortals have to jump through all the hoops and processes.”
“If no safeguards are put in place to preserve the independence and accountability of how many are distributed, then this becomes the norm, and we’ll have no faith in the system.
“It leads to a scenario where you have to be wearing a loyalty badge or else you’re not going to be able to work. This is not the Europe we’re hoping for.”
Being an EU member, Malta is obliged to provide aid to local productions approved by the European Commission before agreements are signed.