Tens of thousands of euros in public funds are being used for the production of a film about the 1919 Sette Giugno riots, raising eyebrows in the film industry about the way the deal has been struck between the government and private film producers.
At least half a million euros is coming out of public funding for the film Just Noise, featuring Hollywood actors Harvey Keitel and Malcolm McDowell, Times of Malta is informed.
Apart from investing public funds in this film without a competitive process, the government has also formed a private company together with producers.
Just Noise Ltd was formed last June with a 50/50 shareholding between the Malta Arts Council and Juggernaut Ltd, a company owed by Jean Pierre Magro, Pedja Miletic and Aaron Briffa.
Former One TV chief executive Albert Marshall, currently chairing the Arts Council, and Mario Azzopardi, are representing the government on the company’s board.
The film was officially launched last month by Tourism Minster Konrad Mizzi, who said the film production was testament of the flourishing film industry under his stead. He did not give any indication that the government is funding the film.
Asked to provide details on the amount of funds the government is forking out and whether any competitive process was made before committing taxpayers’ money into a joint venture, Mr Marshall admitted there was no competitive process and this was purely a “business deal”.
He did not specify the film’s budget, as according to him, “budgets in film are never disclosed while work is in progress”, though he admitted no tender was issued.
He said that in October 2018, the Arts Council had issued a public call for screenplay writing services in connection with a TV feature film to be screened on the 100th anniversary of the event, marked last June.
The TV feature film was never produced.
“When not only a script was delivered but also a business proposal that made financial sense, it was the beginning of a long, productive and artistic journey that has culminated in the shooting of this film,” Mr Marshall said.
The use of such a public-private partnership was common in Europe’s film industry, he said.
Asked to state whether EU rules were observed in this joint venture, including State aid rules which preclude the direct State funding of film productions, Mr Marshall did not give a specific reply.
“All necessary approvals and consultations were obtained and carried out,” he insisted.
Sources said the Malta Film Commission is also working out other government funds for this production.
Asked to state how many funding the Malta Film Commission is forking out through its programmes for this production, Commissioner Johann Grech, a former marketing official at the Office of the Prime Minister, did not reply.
According to the latest available data, in 2018 the total budget of the Malta Film Fund stood at just €350,000.
Questions sent to the producers, including Jean Pierre Magro, were left unanswered.