Olivewood dream turns to nightmare

2 mins read

Hollywood producers of Jiu Jitsu filmed entirely in Cyprus in 2019, starring Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, are suing the Cyprus government for not keeping its end of the bargain in a rebate scheme which brought them to the island.

Cyprus had been banking on the film to help set up its revamped audiovisual services industry, dubbed Olivewood, as Jiu Jitsu was the first high-profile film to be made on the island.

However, the dream is turning sour as producers are suing the Republic after their experience with the government’s incentive scheme went downhill, as they claim the Cyprus government did not fulfil its €8.5 mln rebate obligations.

Libel and defamation lawsuits have been filed against the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides for “presenting the producers as failing to abide by the rules of the audiovisual incentive scheme”, and also the Republic for damages of a total of €30 mln.

According to the producers’ lawyer, Yiannos Georgiades, the lawsuit against the Republic includes Invest Cyprus, the island’s investment promotion agency spearheading the audiovisual incentive scheme.

Georgiades said that including Invest Cyprus in the lawsuit was deemed necessary as the agency had handled the cash rebate request submitted by his clients.

He said that his clients, including Jiu Jitsu’s director Demitri Logothetis, are put off from doing business in Cyprus.

The team was all set for their second venture in Cyprus to film ‘Man of War’ at the beginning of the year, which would have cost €37 mln with plans to invest $125 mln in this and another five films.


‘Golden passports’ claim

Among the “reprehensible” behaviours that, according to the applicants’ lawyer, forced the producers to take legal action and abandon their second major production in Cyprus, are the constant reports mainly from the Auditor General, that the film Jiu Jitsu was linked to the golden passports scandal.

The team’s lawyer also argued that Jiu Jitsu has offered Cyprus great publicity as the film was distributed by Paramount with success, while it was released by the Netflix platform in the U.S.

In recent comments to the Financial Mirror, Chris Economides, a board member of LBE JIU-JITSU AVC, te investment vehicle set up in Cyprus by the film’s producers, said he believes the future of ‘Olivewood’ is at risk as his colleagues, including Jiu Jitsu director Demitri Logothetis, will boycott Cyprus.

Economides told the Financial Mirror that Cyprus had missed a golden opportunity to promote itself as a filming destination by not keeping its part of the bargain.

He is puzzled over the image Cyprus is sending out when a major film production had to resort to the justice system to get the rebate promised by the scheme.

“Cyprus simply did not deliver,” he said.

“We feel saddened as we have fallen victim to the whims of the people who do not have a clue when it comes to financial auditing and audiovisual productions”.


Boosted local economy

He put forward several arguments that support that the film had promoted the island as a tourist and film making destination, practically boosting the island’s economy.

“The movie ‘Jiu Jitsu’ racked up around 8,200 hotel nights for its cast and crew, costing around €2 mln.

“We have employed more than 300 people, of whom 204 were locals.

“We have built a marvellous set (using local contractors) that cost around €460,000, which was offered to Cyprus as a gift from the producers’ team.

“We kept our end of the bargain.

“We brought big names to star in the film and an accredited director.

“We hired local actors and crew. We paid all our taxes, but Cyprus did not keep its end of the deal.”

Jiu Jitsu premiered in early 2020 and was screened in cinemas or released on DVD in over 40 countries.

The film scheme provides Cypriot and foreign producers with incentives, cash rebates and/or tax credits of up to 35% on qualifying production expenditures.

Also, it provides tax allowances of 20% for investment in infrastructure and equipment.

Cyprus relied on its incentive scheme to reboot its audiovisual industry, bringing in big names from international cinema.

Recently, some media reports suggested that Bollywood stakeholders had exhibited an interest in Cyprus.

There is already a home-grown film making industry that has produced some major films, such as the Altadium production house that made the horror flick ‘Ghosts of Monday’ starring Julian Sands, preceded by ‘SOS Survive or Sacrifice’ starring William Baldwin.