Maltese artists lament unequal treatment at hands of Malta Film Commission

Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association President Maria Galea says Maltese artists feel ‘overlooked and underappreciated’

Malta Film Commission (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Malta Film Commission (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Maltese artists feel “overlooked and underappreciated” by the Malta Film Commission, according to the president of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association. 

Maria Galea told MaltaToday that while the Film Commission’s role to import foreign productions is crucial, how it treats domestic and foreign producers is far from equal. 

Galea compared the Maltese film industry with that in Iceland, which has a population smaller than Malta’s. She noted that in Iceland, the government makes a great effort to export local productions. 

Maltese artists and producers are up in arms after the Film Commission commissioned a 10-minute film showcasing Malta to foreign producers, which according to conservative estimates cost some €500,000. The cherry on the cake was the appearance of Film Commissioner Johann Grech as an actor alongside British comedian David Walliams in the film. 

The film premiered at the Mediterrane Film Festival last week, causing outrage and ridicule within the Maltese industry. 

But apart from this extravagance, artists have also questioned why they were sidelined from the festival itself. 

Galea questioned why the MFC did not approach the MEIA to encourage their members to attend the festival. “How can you organise a film festival and not have the local film ecosystem involved in the event?” 

Malta Film Studios (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Malta Film Studios (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The MEIA president noted that such events serve to motivate local talent but instead artists feel diminished when they see that they’re not even asked to be a part of the MFC’s productions. 
Galea said there was no open call for Maltese artists to take part in this production. And the film’s budget, she noted, was half the €1 million at the disposal of local producers each year. 

These funds are no longer the responsibility of the film commission after an administrative change shifted them to the Malta Arts Council. 

But the tipping point came when award-winning Maltese actress Lara Azzopardi posted her reflections in a social media post in which she accused Johann Grech of being a bully. 

Azzopardi called out Grech for prioritising foreign filmmakers and artists over local ones, calling it “disrespect toward those who are truly talented in Malta.” 

Film Commissioner Johann Grech
Film Commissioner Johann Grech

The government has so far failed to react to Azzopardi’s accusations. 

Maria Galea from the MEIA insisted that the industry cannot be split in two. “We believe the two entities [Malta Film Commission and Arts Council] have to collaborate and work together, because there is too much fragmentation in the industry.” 

Questions sent to the Tourism Ministry that is responsible for the Film Commission remained unanswered at the time of writing.