Saturday, May 05, 2007

IIFF #5: Jury Duty & Prizes

[note: This post was written on Friday afternoon --but I’ve been traveling]

It’s all over but the partying here at the Indy Fest. Yesterday we had our jury meeting. There were three sets of jurors for the different sections of competition. Yours truly was on the world cinema jury. Serving on the jury with me were a jovial local to Indy film and music critic and a delightful member of Film Movement. We watched. We judged. We determined prize worthiness.

A few people have asked me to describe how festival competition juries work. This is my first so I can’t speak for other festivals but I do imagine they’re similar. You come into the room (in our case a restaurant for lunch) with your beloved pets and you hope other people find those same movies loveable too. You talk things out if the feelings aren’t mutual. Large juries or organizations obviously have rounds of voting but when it’s a small pool of people you can simply talk it out. You argue… or not and that all depends on how much you’re invested in the outcome. If the communal #1 choice is your second choice and it was just barely your second choice, you might quickly concede since you loved that feature, too. If you hate the communal #1 you would certainly beg for a rethink of the communal #2, for example. Since we were but a trio we each compared our top few choices and worked from there.

The feature decision was reached with little compromise needed. We had strongly different opinions on all but two features, Das Fräulein and Thicker Than Water. Both of those were very well regarded by all. In the end after a discussion of their merits, we decided that the top prize belonged to Das Fräulein. For those eager to see it, it received a theatrical distribution deal during the week of the festival so it will be hitting major markets in August or September (that’s the plan I’m hearing at any rate. But you know how these things change). I’m also quite pleased that the other juries agreed with my assessment of the scalpel like precision of the performances within Thicker Than Water so we found a way to award that, too: a special jury prize for acting.

Though we agreed on the features, our feelings about the many shorts we screened were all over the place. I did like our eventual winner a lot but it wasn’t my favorite. It did have the strength of being the only short to appear in everyone’s top five. It’s called Eramos Pocos and it’s a painfully funny extended joke from director Borja Corbeaga (it was also an Oscar nominee earlier this year). It was the only short that we all were equally fond of. My personal top choice was The Patterns Trilogy but it didn’t garner enough support outside of me, myself, and I. I think the problem was that its true power was in trilogy form -- I got the sense that my fellow jurors didn’t want such an unlevel playing field, three films beating one as it were. It is true that as stand alones they’re less satisfying. At least that’s how I’m consoling myself with the loss. I am behind it in a big way. I’m dying to see it again. I hope to write more about it soon. I'm sure many readers here would love it if they had the chance to see it. [insert typical moaning about the lack of venues/distribution for short films here]

Here is the complete list of prizes from the 4th Annual Indianapolis Film Festival. If you missed my write-ups just click on the film festival label at the end of the post.

(Audience Awards)
Best Feature: [tie] Waitress (USA) and Speed Dating (Ireland)
Best Short: The Substitute (Italy)
Best Documentary: In the Shadow of the Moon

(American Spectrum)
Best Feature: Adrift in Manhattan
Best Short: Pop Foul
Jury Prize Cinematography: Disappearances
Jury Prize Comedy: Nevel is the Devil & Kidney Thieves

(Real Visions i.e. Documentary)
Best Feature: Rain in a Dry Land
Jury Prize Honorable Mention: Bridge Over the Wadi
Jury Prize Director Marie-Josee Sainte-Pierre for McLaren's Negatives
Best Short: Angel's Fire
Jury Prize Honorable Mention: Heavy Metal Jr.

(World Cinema) * My Section
Best Feature: Das Fräulein
Best Short: Eramos Pocos
Jury Prize Performance: The cast of Thicker Than Water
Jury Prize Music: Milk and Opium

Hope you enjoyed the coverage here. Now I’m off to the party to say goodbye to new friends and imbibe much alcohol. I now return you to normally scheduled programming here at the Film Experience.

4 comments:

John P. said...

I saw Patterns II at the Vancouver Int'l Film Fest and I loved it, but I had the feeling something was missing - maybe I should track down the other two and watch them.

NATHANIEL R said...

Patterns III pulls it altogether in ways most surprising / satisfying / bizarre.

Brian said...

Looks like I just missed a free screening of that trilogy in my area. Drat.

Thanks for the inside look at a jury. I just have one question: was there any set of critical criteria that the festival asked you to consider, or that the jury agreed upon before deciding on the winners, or were you working with nothing more than the films, your own opinions and your fellow jurors' comments to got by?

NATHANIEL R said...

i know that some awards had very specific criteria (they have a kurt vonnegut sci-fi award for example and the estate prescribed a very specific set of criterias to be judged on for them to be allowed use of the name)
but ours was your general critical criteria.

no special instructions other than one feature and one short and we could give up to two special prizes if we wanted.

I will say that I'm very glad to have been on the world cinema jury because I would have not had a pleasant experience on the "american spectrum" jury since I didn't care for two of the winners.