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Refund for Jiu-Jitsu while Olivewood is in trouble

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After a heated discussion among MPs, parliament gave the green light for the €8.5 mln reimbursement to the producers of a Hollywood movie filmed entirely in Cyprus, but the film scheme remains shackled.

Jiu-Jitsu, starring Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage is the first international movie shot in Cyprus attracted by an audio-visual incentive scheme promoted by the government.

AKEL MPs and the Greens voted against the release of the €8.5 mln refund the production company claimed from the state, the money was approved by ruling DISY, DIKO and EDEK MPs.

The release of the budget was deemed necessary by InvestCyprus chairman Michalis Michael who said that the producers were waiting to pay-off crew members and other service providers in Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the incentive plan managed by Invest Cyprus aims to see the creation of a film industry on the island dubbed as “Olivewood” may be in for a bumpy ride.

With the exception of ruling DISY, MPs have voted to put the 2020 budget for the film incentive scheme on ice, earmarking it for crosschecks when the Finance Ministry puts in a request for the release of funds.

According to the scheme, the government has provided a total of €25 mln for the ventures it might fund on a yearly basis for the promotion of the film industry.

The scheme provides Cypriot and foreign producers with incentives, cash rebates and/or tax credits of up to 35% on qualifying production expenditures and also provides tax allowances of 20% for investment in infrastructure and equipment.

AKEL and the Greens expressed concerns that the scheme might lead to a waste of public funds.

“We have serious doubts about the social return from this film (Jiu-Jitsu) for the benefit of Cyprus and highlighting the Republic of Cyprus as a destination for tourism or other investments,” AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said.

The Auditor General’s office is also conducting checks into the film incentive scheme and the Jiu-jitsu film itself.

Invest Cyprus argues the incentive scheme is the cheapest and most effective way to promote Cyprus abroad.

Michael said there was interest from Bollywood, saying meetings had been held, expressing the hope that the Indian film industry will be filming in Cyprus soon.

Jiu Jitsu’s premiere will be in February and screened in cinemas in March. The film shot exclusively in Cyprus will be distributed to 40 countries.