Arts practitioners give critical post-mortem on Malta’s first Film Awards

From maskless audiences to ministers presenting awards, arts practtitioners watched the one-off Malta Film Awards with a critical eye on Saturday night

The first edition of the Malta Film Awards took place on Saturday 29 January, with all eyes at the Mediterreanean Conference Centre in Valletta to see the star-studded event unfold.

But many industry practitioners watched the event with a more critical eye, noting a lack of COVID-19 regulation enforcement while remarking on the exorbitant price tag of the whole event.

“So rules don’t apply to the Malta Film Awards I take it? No masks, no clusters, possibly no requirement for vaccines. Yet all other producers risk a fine of €500 per person! Two weights, two measures,” said Wesley Ellul, a theatremaker and producer.

So rules don’t apply to the Malta Film Awards I take it ? - no masks - no clusters - possibly no requirement for...

Posted by Wesley Ellul on Saturday, January 29, 2022

Oliver Mallia, who founded local production compay Pellikola, compared Malta’s Film Awards with that of the 2019 Icelandic Film Awards. Placing images of the two events next to each other, he pointed out that Iceland adopted a simple stage setting to celebrate its large film industry.

“Malta’s stage looks like it is competing to take over the Oscars, and the other is an uncomplicated stage with limited lighting, no statues or orchestra and no foreign host,” he noted. “As a country we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Please have a look at the pictures I am adding. One is the enormous stage for this evening's edition of Malta Film...

Posted by Oliver Mallia on Saturday, January 29, 2022

Among the sober evaluations of the event was that of Howard Keith Debono, President of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA). He started be remarking on the lack of masks and clusters among the audience.

“That’s an organised indoors event, and just like how the rest of stakeholders had to abide by these rules, and still have to abide by these rules - the same rules imposed int he legal notice - it certaintly didn’t apply yesterday. This isn’t right and once again it exposes the unfortunate non-level playing field,” he said.

Debono admitted that the efforts made to celebrate local film and TV was admirable, but raised concerns over the actual amount of money spent on the one-off awards ceremony.

“If the rumours are correct, that from the initial €400,000 budgeted to produce a one-off Malta Film Awards the actual budget shot up to seven figures (€2 million and more is being mentioned), then one needs to ask why and how. The initial budget was flagged by the stakeholders because it sharply contrasted the funds given to Maltese film makers. I can only imagine how they would feel and react if what is being mentioned is true.”

He added that it was a shame to see high-quality Maltese films, notably Luzzu, absent from the awards ceremony. The crew behind Luzzu and other prominent film productions chose to boycott the event, arguing that the €400,000 price tag was a slap in the face for an industry rife with poor pay and a film fund capped at €600,000 per year.

After several pics & clips doing the rounds I have to ask a bold question ;- Why wasn't the audience at the Malta film...

Posted by Howard Keith Debono on Sunday, January 30, 2022

Others questioned the presence of several ministers and top government officials at the ceremony, with at least three ministers - Culture Minister Jose Herrera, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, and Broadcasting Minister Carmelo Abela - chosen to present awards.

Other top officials, including Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia and PBS Head of News Norma Saliba, presented awards at the ceremony too.

“I won’t comment on having three ministers and government officials present awards, which I believe doesn’t happen anywhere else in Europe,” Debono said. “But I would rather focus on the fact that the film and TV i ndustry has a lot of issues that fall under several ministries.”

“There needs to be one ministry. It is high time our country has one dedicated ministry where all sectors related to our industry fall under,” he said.

Despite friction between authorities and Malta’s film community over the past months, many members have welcomed government’s recent vision for the film industry leading up to the year 2030.

Indeed, MEIA and the Malta Producers Association (MPA) welcomed the overall intention of Vision 2030, which is based on four pillars: infructure, film culture, education, and finances.

Both associations banded together for a joint campaign called ĊelebrAZZJONI to raise awareness on the unique challenges of the film and TV industry.

Prominent TV and film workers, including the crewmembers of productions like Simshar, Limestone Cowboy, and is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi, are taking part in the campaign.

Here are the winners of the 1st Malta Film Awards:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Harvey Keitel

Best Acress in a Leading Role: Louise Doneo

Best Malta Actor in a Supporting Role: Narcy Calamatta

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Sarah Camilleri

Best Director: Davide Ferrario

Best Film: The Boat

Best Cinematography: Marek Traskowski

Best Post-Production: Blood on the Crown

Crew Recognition Award: Ino Bonello

Best Costume Design: Angelle Farrugia and Audrey Brincat Dalli

Best Hair and Makeup Design: Christian Kotey and Jannie Stax

Best Location Award: Fort Ricasoli

Best Production Design: Mela Melak

Best Musical Score: Alexey Shor and Laurent Eyquem

Best Classic Film: Scrooge

Best Short Film: The Maltese Fighter

Best Documentary: Pass Pass Għal Auschwitz

Best screenplay: Jean Pierre Magro

Best TV Series: L-Għarusa

Best Classic TV Series: Għeruq

Lifetime Achievement Award: Mario Philip Azzopardi

Malta Film Commissioner Award: Colin Trevorrow