Film director Mario Philip Azzopardi paid €80,000 for top V18 post

Film director Mario Philip Azzopardi is raking in just under €80,000 a year for his role as the Valletta 2018 Foundation’s artistic director, according to the justice and culture ministry

Mario Philip Azzopardi and (right) Wayne Marshall
Mario Philip Azzopardi and (right) Wayne Marshall

Controversial film director Mario Philip Azzopardi is earning just under €80,000 a year for his role as the Valletta 2018 Foundation’s artistic director, putting him above the Attorney General and the Malta Tourism Authority and Identity Malta chairmen in the public sector rich list.

A spokesperson for the justice and culture ministry told MaltaToday that Azzopardi – who is responsible for V18’s main events – “is earning nearly half the earnings of Mr Wayne Marshall and another eight assistants who were all entrusted with this same job during the previous administration for the global sum of €175,000 per year. Therefore, V18 is today saving €97,000 per year.”

Questions on whether the remuneration includes perks and what the foundation’s other artistic directors earn remained unanswered.

Azzopardi himself at first said when contacted by phone that the figure was incorrect, however in an email sent to MaltaToday he later said: “I understand that the ministry has adequately answered these questions. I am in agreement with the ministry’s response and have nothing else to add.”

Questions on how many hours Azzopardi – who is active in Malta as a theatre and film producer – puts in as V18 artistic director and how long was he away in summer to direct two episodes of a TV series created by his daughter Lara, also remained unanswered.  

However, the ministry did say that “while [formerV18 director] Mr Marshall was not based in Malta, Mr Azzopardi is based completely here, except for a few weeks in summer in order to visit his family in Canada.”

Azzopardi took on the role of Valletta 2018 Foundation artistic director in January 2015.

According to the culture ministry and V18 chairman Jason Micallef, unlike his predecessor Azzopardi is not responsible for all V18 events but is working in collaboration with others in a number of co-funded projects which include the Valletta Pageant of the Seas which took place on 7 June, 2016. 

Azzopardi has consistently courted controversy with what some collaborators have described as his abusive behaviour. Before taking on the V18 role, he caused a stir after posting islamophobic comments on Facebook. Azzopardi’s rant – in which he called all Muslims “idiots” – had prompted justice and culture minister Owen Bonnici to distance himself from the comments, saying they were “unwarranted” and did not tally with the government’s position.

In his rant, Azzopardi lashed out against Shari’a law, saying he would make sure that any ‘idiot’ who follows Shari’a law should not attain any political power, “at the risk of using violence against him.”

He stood by what he wrote but apologised for comments which he said “could have offended the sentiments of some.”

Earlier this year, Azzopardi was at the centre of controversy again after clashing with a Valletta parish priest, during celebrations marking the feast of St Augustine, when a passing brass band disturbed a play produced by his theatre company Staġun Teatru Malti.

Witnesses claimed the director used a homophobic slur in the priest’s regard. Azzopardi denied using foul language or acting aggressively towards the priest and the band.

Even former theatre workers suffered the brunt of his irascibility. Director Sean Buhagiar quit the direction of Stagun Teatru Malti’s play Habbilni Ha Nirbah after heated arguments with Azzopardi, the executive producer. Set designer Adrian Mamo also quit the production after Azzopardi flared up, ditching the set before it was completed. Sean Buhagiar later resigned from the post of V18’s deputy artistic director.