HFPA members support local pics but won't campaign for them

It’s no surprise Silvia Bizio is partial to Italian movies: She was born and raised in Italy. As the Hollywood correspondent for Italy’s second-largest circulation newspaper, Bizio jokes that she practically commutes between her home in Southern California and Rome.

So, naturally, Italian films have a resonance with her.

Bizio is also a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. As such, she is one of 83 who select Golden Globe nominees and winners every year. All members of the org have to balance their national pride with their responsibility as judges.

“Obviously each journalist and each person tends to support the movies of their country,” says Bizio, who writes for La Repubblica. “Not to try to influence votes, because that’s not what we do. It’s part of our professional ethics not to do that.”

Bizio, who has been a member for 26 years, says that every year between 80 and 90 films are legitimate contenders for top foreign language film.

“We try to see as many as possible,” she says. “We take our job very seriously.”

She says she will often persuade other HFPA members to fit a screening into their busy schedule, but never openly promote a pic because the film’s origins are from their home countries.

“You never want to be accused of trying to influence a vote,” she says. “At the most I will encourage people and make sure you see that movie. Just watch it. If I see a movie from Italy that’s really worthwhile, I’ll say, ‘Go check that out.’ The Russian people will do the same.”

Jenny Cooney Carrillo, an HFPA member from Australia, says, “I don’t think there is any direct relationship between certain movies or actors and the countries that our membership represent. Being such an international group, you won’t find too many people from one market anyway.

“The only way it influences voting is by the fact that we are all from other places and so perhaps our viewpoints and sensibilities are shaped by many things outside the U.S., whether it’s films we were brought up on or actors we admired growing up. We are more likely to recognize talent in a project or person regardless of where it or they came from — regardless of whether they have an accent or not.”

Jean Cummings has been a member of the HFPA since 1976, and says she simply votes “for whatever I consider to be the best.”

While Bizio writes for Italian publications and Cooney Carrillo works for publications in Australia and New Zealand, Cummings, who is from the U.K., writes for Japanese publications.

She says she understands her readers might be pleased to have a Japanese film receive a Golden Globe nom, but takes the quality of the movie — not her readers’ parochial interests — into consideration when casting her vote.

Journalists who double as awards judges must walk a careful line, says Bob Steele, director of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at De Pauw U. and an ethicist with the Poynter Institute, a journalism school and think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Steele says he is not familiar with the intricacies of Golden Globe voting, but that as journalists, members of the HFPA have to maintain their independence.

“I intentionally do not use the word ‘objectivity,’ because I think that’s a red herring,” he says. “What we’re talking about is independence — the principle that journalists, even if they have opinions, and journalists do have opinions, are still able to be fair, distant observers and bring a professional, independent reporting eye to what they’re covering.”

Bizio says that as a journo and a long-time Golden Globes voter, she has learned how to be achieve the right balance.

“When I write about a movie, I put my judgment and my perspective aside,” she says. “I leave that to the critics.”

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