Tuesday 23 July 2024

A little power is a dangerous thing

There are clearly too many people around (and they are mostly men) who once they get a taste of a little power, turn into megalomaniacs. Or, probably more precisely, their ego has always been there but the authority they are entrusted with simply fuels it until it becomes as over-inflated as a balloon which has been pumped up with too much air.

As we know, however, balloons eventually burst, and that is what is happening everywhere we look. Men whose power has filled them up with so much (unjustified) self-importance that they do not realise how truly pathetic they look. They attempt to throw their weight around and sometimes succeed in intimidating their underlings into silence…but once in a while there is someone who has enough strength of character to speak up.

Actress Lara Azzopardi did just that in a scathing post about Film Commissioner Johann Grech when the news broke about how much money he is squandering.

“This is a huge disgrace and disrespectful towards all those who truly have talent. Local professionals in the field have to beg to produce a quality product for Maltese TV because they tell us there are no funds. We even work for long hours for free. When I worked part-time for the Film Commission he withheld my pay for many months for no reason. I used to be really afraid of him: he was a bully, just as he was with the majority of women…..I used to respect him until one day when he had too much to drink and his arrogance towards me came out in the open…”

Following this post, Lara Vella Baldacchino, a make up artist, issued her own statement:

“I am one of 13 film crew, self-employed, who have been chasing Johann Grech, the union, Minster Clayton Bartolo and lawyer to get paid for a movie we worked on 3 years ago, risking our lives with Covid testing ourselves when we could not go home to our family and kids. We were not paid for last 2 weeks and the Malta Film Commission did nothing. Yet again they have money to spend on such things…and us, we have to figure out how to pay our bills and keep ourselves going. They don’t like people who talk …as they want only people to just accept whatever they give you without questions asked.”

What keeps people from talking about such abuse on this tiny island (in all sectors) is obvious: you will never get work again and if this is your passion or livelihood you will think twice about rocking the boat. But this fear is what perpetuates the “little man syndrome” which we see repeating itself again and again. As long as people keep silent, the abuse of power and misuse of public funds will continue.

All those involved in the local film industry should not only back up what these two women have said, but they should also show some integrity and refuse to work with Johann Grech any longer. Unless these type of people are toppled from their posts, the culture of omerta’ will continue, complaints will be simply relegated to private indignation behind closed doors, and nothing will ever change.

We will continue to see that the only ones who get funding are those who curry favour with the people at the top while those who are truly deserving are forced to chase after their payments, or are shut out of the industry completely out of spite.

The icing on the cake was the Film Commissioner appearing in a 10 minute promotional feature costing €500,000. Who does these things but people with no sense of self-awareness of how utterly ridiculous they look?

With all this damning evidence, the real question is: why hasn’t Minister Clayton Bartolo sacked Johann Grech yet?

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