An actor has used his acceptance speech at the Malta Film Awards to appeal for better funding of the local film industry. 

Joe Azzopardi was lead actor in The Boat, which won Best Film category at the ceremony on Saturday that celebrated 100 years of movies.

The black-tie event was boycotted by high-profile filmmakers, who criticised the cost of the event compared to the annual budget set aside for the industry.

Azzopardi reflected their concerns when he took to the stage to accept the award alongside his director father Winston Azzopardi and the rest of the team behind the 2018 movie.

"I don't need to tell you all here how hard it is to make a film, the hardest part being funding," said Azzopardi.

"As beautiful as investing in these awards are tonight, I think investing in our indigenous films are more important," he said, followed by applause from the audience at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta. 

However he said the future "looks bright", and referred to a recent promise by Film Commissioner Johann Grech that there would be better wages and more opportunities for the industry. 

"You know we got great stories to tell, and I think it's high time that we get the opportunity to tell these stories," he said.

During the ceremony hosted by British comedian and children's author David Walliams, Grech said over 230 professionals and 265 artists worked together to make the awards show the "biggest ever TV show with the highest standards in Malta".

David Walliams during the first Malta Film Awards. Photo: Malta Film AwardsDavid Walliams during the first Malta Film Awards. Photo: Malta Film Awards

He previously refused to confirm if the budget for the awards had gone over and above the €400,000 budget, instead insisted it would provide "value for money."

Lionel Gerada, Director of Events at Malta Tourism Authority, described the event as an "amazing show" while the Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said it was celebration of the bright future of the film industry. 

Producer and former Film Commissioner Oliver Mallia compared Malta's Film Awards with that of the 2019 Icelandic Film Awards, by placing images of the two events side by side and pointing out Malta's elaborate stage. 

"Malta's stage looks like it is competing to take over the Oscars, and the other is uncomplicated stage with limited lighting, no statues or orchestra and no foreign host," he said. 

He said Iceland has a film industry that celebrates every year, not every hundred years. 

"The small country produces around 10 feature films per annum and exports numerous TV series. Various Icelandic films are constantly selected and awarded at prestigious film festivals - at events that really matter."

Malta Entertainments Industry and Arts Association president Howard Keith Debono also raised questions about the cost of the ceremony. 

"If the rumours are correct that from the initial €400,000 budgeted to produce a one-off Malta Film awards actually shot up to seven figures, (€2 million + is being mentioned) then one needs to ask why & how?" he said.

"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."

Grech last week told Times of Malta that the cost of the awards would be revealed after the event. 

Malta Film Awards winners

  • Best Film: The Boat – Joe Azzopardi, Winston Azzopardi, Rita Galea, Yolanda Galea
  • Best Short Film: The Maltese Fighter – Joshua Cassar Gaspar
  • Best TV Series: L-Għarusa – Justin Farrugia & Steven Dalli
  • Best Documentary: Pass Pass għal Auschwitz – Jonathan Farrugia
  • Best Director: Davide Ferrario – Blood on the Crown
  • Best Post-Production: Aaron Briffa, Claudio Cormio, Nikita Argunov, Pedja Miletic & Vito Martinelli – Blood on the Crown
  • Best Cinematography: Marek Traskowski – The Boat
  • Best Classic Film: Scrooge – Alan Fenech & Tony Parnis
  • Best Classic TV Series: Għeruq – Frida Cauchi & Hermann Bonaci
  • Best Costume Design: Audrey Brincat Dalli & Angelle Farrugia – ‘L-Għarusa’
  • Best Hair & Makeup Design: Christian Kotey & Jannie Stax – ‘Blood on the Crown’
  • Best Male Actor in a Leading Role: Harvey Keitel – Blood on the Crown
  • Best Female Actor in a Leading Role: Louise Doneo – Hemm Dar il-Qala
  • Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Narcy Calamatta – Ħabbilni ħa nirbaħ
  • Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Sarah Camilleri – L-iSpettur
  • Best Production Design: Mela Melak – Blood on the Crown
  • Best Screenplay: Jean Pierre Magro – Blood on the Crown
  • Best Musical Score: Alexey Shor & Laurent Eyquem – Blood on the Crown
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Mario Philip Azzopardi
  • Crew Recognition Award: Ino Bonello
  • Malta Film Commissioner’s Award: Colin Trevorrow
  • The Malta Film Ambassador Award: Sir Ridley Scott
  • Malta Film Industry Honorary Award: Russell Crowe
  • Best Film Location Award: Fort Ricasoli – Kalkara

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