Sundance festival topper Geoff Gilmore beat up on European producers association FIAPF for its rating system on Sunday. He was speaking at a seminar at the Shanghai Film Festival. “The mediocrity that organization (Intl. Federation of Film Producers’ Assns.) has perpetuated is one of the biggest failings of the international industry,” Gilmore said.
The Shanghai fest, where he made his remarks, is an event that does not obviously comply with all of FIAPF’s strictures on pics in competition but rarely misses an opportunity to boast of its “A-list” status.
Paris-based FIAPF is an org backed by 26 producers associations from 23 countries that takes on a self-appointed range of legal, lobbying and regulatory tasks, including oversight of movie festivals.
Although its ratings are commonly referred to as providing festivals with “A-list” or “B-list” status, FIAPF actually refers to the top festivals as falling into either the category of “competitive feature film festivals” or “competitive specialized feature film festivals.”
“The designation of the so-called A festivals is an antiquated system that has promoted a certain level of mediocrity” Gilmore said.
He attacked the FIAPF’s bureaucracy. “For many years neither Sundance nor Toronto (were FIAPF members). That doesn’t make much sense,” he said.
FIAPF counts 49 film festivals as members, of which 12 are on its “competitive feature film festivals” or “A” list. Aside from Shanghai, Tokyo is the only other one in Asia. Pusan, Asia’s most influential fest, is classified as “non-competitive.”
Gilmore was also scathingly critical about how a certain kind of auteur cinema has come to dominate many festivals around the world.
“We need to talk about the standard at which (festivals) show work. Are they going to showcase a work simply because there is an interest in seeing that film? Or is it a decision not to show certain films? Not to show the films of filmmakers who come back every year and instead to show something more fresh and original?”
Gilmore challenged Asian festivals to do more to support their own films and talent.
“If you ask me where in the last decade and a half the world’s greatest filmmakers have come from, there’s one simple answer: Asia. The spectrum of filmmakers that have emerged from Asia, both on the genre side and on the art side and a lot in between. If you look at the range of quality filmmakers that have won major prizes at festivals all over the world, they’ve come from Asia ”
“It is time for the Asian festivals to take the lead in presenting that work. It is time for Shanghai and other Asian festivals to become a premier setting, a destination, for the presentation of that work. And it is time for Asian film to takes its place in the role of film culture in a way that Europe has long dominated and America has never had.”
In public at least, other panelists chose not to take up Gilmore’s mauling of FIAPF, but Rotterdam’s departing chief Sandra den Hamer provoked further debate with her pessimistic signoff.
“There are too many films and the market (for them) is too small. There are too many festivals and too many co-production markets. Each film cannot be shown; it won’t reach the theaters, it won’t get distribution. But in the future, festivals should also work to create new platforms for showing films.”