Minister refuses to deny that the Malta Film Awards cost more than 2 million euros

Photo: Maltese Film Awards Facebook page

Tista’ taqra bil-

While his ministry doesn’t seem to be in a rush to confirm the true cost of the lavish Malta Film Awards ceremony, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo also refuses to say whether the event cost more than 2 million euros, well at least above its budget of €400,000.

During Question Time in parliament, Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi claimed that English comedian David Walliams’ participation as host alone cost €240,000.

The debate began with government MP Jean-Claude Micallef asking a softball question about film prices and the Maltese film industry, for which Bartolo readily provided information.

But when Azzopardi asked what he considered an obvious follow-up question – how much the events cost, filling out his €2m prize claim – the minister was more reluctant.

Bartolo noted that a number of PN MPs had asked the same question in writing – Karl Gouder asked two related questions, as did Thérèse Comodini Cachia. But each was greeted with the assertion that information is still being collected.

And the minister refused to deny that the event went well over budget, despite repeated requests from Gouder and Azzopardi.

Bartolo was able to report that a PN government had spent €1.1m to host the 2012 European Film Awards in Valletta, suggesting he had come prepared for questions on the subject. But the cost of an event held just over a week ago remains a mystery.

Azzopardi also asked the minister how he could look the public in the eye given the money spent, including a lucrative direct order from a supplier who has long provided services to Labour. On social media, he confirmed he was referring to TEC Ltd, pointing out that his services to the Labor Party were provided free of charge.

“The minister smiled. But he didn’t deny it,” he observed in a Facebook post.

Independent political candidate Arnold Cassola has asked the National Audit Office to investigate the spending of the Malta Film Awards, which has been boycotted by many local film producers including Luzzu, who won an award at the prestigious Sundance film festival .

The festival had also sparked controversy for other reasons – many patrons openly flouted Covid-19 regulations by refusing to wear face masks in a crowded indoor venue.

In an adjournment speech last week, PN MP Toni Bezzina sarcastically suggested ministers at the scene had the power to immunize everyone against coronavirus.

“Perhaps the ministers present gave immunity to everyone”


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