[WATCH] Mediterrane millions ‘good for Malta’ but homegrown films not giving value for money says minister

Tourism minister says €3 million spend to fly in celebrities for Malta film servicing showcase were investment, but says spending more on homegrown movies not yet giving ‘value for money’

Film Commissioner Johann Grech (left) with Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: Facebook)
Film Commissioner Johann Grech (left) with Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: Facebook)

Tourism minister Clayton Bartolo thinks homegrown Maltese films should deliver “value for money”, if they are to benefit from additional government assistance.

Bartolo was defending the Malta Film Commission’s lavish €3.8 million spend on the Mediterrane film festival, a showcase for the film servicing industry the MFC presides over which has left critics smarting over the lack of grants for homegrown film productions.

Bartolo, speaking to journalists outside the House of Representatives, said an RSM audit of the festival, which comes weeks after it was revealed that British TV celebrity David Walliams was paid €120,000 to host the Malta Film Awards in 2022, had delivered much by way of branding the island for its film servicing industry.

“I call it investment, not just spending. It gave back a value of €7 million and value added of €2.5 million, together with €16 million advertising value… apart from possible business opportunities that would be valued at over €10 million. We have increased awareness of Malta and the kind of business we can attract over to the island. Had we reaped less than what we spent, we would be singing a different tune today.”

But Bartolo appeared less merciful for homegrown film producers whom he said should be helped by the State. “We understand that there are talented local producers, and we must help them, but we must get a real value of money, and until now there have been few local films that give us that value for money - it does not mean we will not help them, or increase this aid, but we cannot just throw money at the ‘problem’ and instead we must invest in training and better facilities.”

Again Bartolo then shifted once again to the film servicing facilities that are mainly used by foreign productions which use Malta as a base for its generous 40% cash rebates on film investment.

An economic impact assessment tabled in parliament yesterday detailed the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of the lavish Mediterrane film festival, which totalled over €2.4 million and €376,000 in advertising, apart from accommodation of €304,000 and airfares totalling €344,000. A total of 249 international guests were sponsored to attend the festival. According to the report, the festival’s potential economic output amounted to €7 million and may have “created or enhanced a total employment impact of 53 jobs at the Direct, Indirect, and Induced levels.”

Earlier in February, tourism minister Clayton Bartolo stated that this year, Malta will once again host the Mediterrane Film Festival.

Bartolo said that a successive edition of the Mediterrane Festival would be held with the same spirit of investment. “Let’s stop making this a political football. We need to converge on this sector that brings jobs to Malta. We have seen it already with the audit of Malta’s cash rebate system for films. Now we see it yet again with the branding form the Mediterrane Festival.”