Arts Council Malta Justifies Cuts To Valletta Film Festival Funding Amidst Backlash From Artists

Arts Council Malta has defended cutting funds for the Valletta Film Festival by €35,000, telling Lovin Malta it would not sacrifice the growth of smaller organisations by prioritising the funding of bigger events.

This comes after individuals from the creative sector flocked to social media last week expressing disappointment at the Valletta Cultural Agency’s (VCA) decision to put up the Cinema City project in Valletta, following the cancellation of the Valletta Film Festival.

The Valletta Film Festival (VFF) – which normally runs for just under two weeks in June – was cancelled due to cuts in public funding and COVID-19 concerns. Film lovers were quick to interpret the implementation of the Cinema City project, which consists of Hollywood films with little connection to Malta, as a hefty, populist replacement for the VFF.

Lovin Malta contacted Arts Council Malta – the VFF’s main public funding body – to better understand its decision to cut down on the festival’s funding.

From 2017 to 2019, the Valletta Film Festival was receiving €50,000 annually from the Arts Council Malta as part of the three-year Cultural Partnership Agreement. Once the contract between the two entities ended, the Valletta Film Festival re-applied for public funds through the Investment in Cultural Organisations (ICO) project.

Amongst the organisations and festivals that applied for the ICO, 13 received the full extent of funds they had applied for. When it came to selecting beneficiaries, ACM reportedly prioritised organisations and festivals that had not yet gained financial autonomy.

The Valletta Film Festival was not one of these organisations.

Of the 13 organisations / festivals that were awarded funds, eight were new beneficiaries whilst the remaining five were repeat beneficiaries. Teatru Salesjan was one of the 13 organisations to receive funds from this incentive due to the fact that it was still working to gain financial sustainability.

Despite this, ACM was willing to help out the remaining five organisations that had applied for the ICO but were not chosen. All five organisations, the Valletta Film Festival included, happened to be Valletta-based.

To support these organisations, ACM teamed up with the Valletta Cultural Agency (VCA) – which is the main power behind the controversial Cinema City event. These two organisations offered €210,000 to be split between the aforementioned five organisations.

The Valletta Film Festival was therefore offered €15,000 annually for three years, as opposed to the €50,000 which it usually receives. The Valletta Film Festival declined the funds.

Despite this, ACM were reportedly in talks with Oliver Mallia, one of the festival directors of the VFF, about Film Grain Foundation’s decision to reject the €15,000 offered. Nonetheless, Film Grain Foundation did not budge.

ACM stated that the Valletta Film Festival has three main sources of funding: public, private, and box money – implying that the remaining funds which were usually given by the ACM (totalling to €35,000) could be replaced from different sources.

Film Grain Foundation, the organisation behind the Valletta Film Festival also reportedly benefitted from another €136,400 over three years a different fund put out by ACM – the Creative Industries Platform.

A single organisation is not meant to benefit from more than €200,000 of public funds over a span of three years.

The aforementioned €136,400 was used to fund another initiative propelled by the Film Grain Foundation titled Valletta Film Lab. This initiative is itself an element within the Valletta Film Festival.

A spokesperson for Arts Council Malta said that they did not want to compromise the growth of smaller organisations by prioritising the funding of bigger events.

Despite the backlash that ACM received from the general public following the cancellation of the film festival, a spokesperson for the Arts Council said, “We are proud to have supported the Valletta Film Festival.”

Featured image credits: Valletta Film Festival & Valletta Cultural Agency

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