Volume 95, Issue 90

Friday, March 22, 2002
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Lights, camera - complain

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Lights, camera - complain

For filmmakers at Western, last weekend's annual installment of the University of Western Ontario Film Festival was a lot like the upcoming, much-celebrated Academy Awards. There was drama, comedy, innovation, creativity and, of course, bickering over who took home the top prize.

One filmmaker in particular has raised some concerns about the festival's outcome. Essentially, he is upset because his film was not awarded a prize, even though he spent a sizable amount of money producing it and an accompanying promotional campaign.

His complaint raises an important issue – should the merits of art, in this case cinematic art, be judged on the basis of how much money was spent to produce the work?

No – especially at the university level.

Western's film festival is designed for student filmmakers to showcase their work to a wide audience. Most work with meager resources, but instead of viewing this cash shortage as a disadvantage, festival organizers encourage people to increase their creativity, not their budget.

The festival is designed to celebrate talent in the art of filmmaking, not in the art of co-ordinating a big budget ad campaign to promote your film. It is designed to encourage student filmmakers to be creative and resourceful and it supposedly awards them accordingly.

It should come as no surprise that the films who took home the top prizes last weekend were minimalist by design – they did not win based upon their budgets, but on the quality of their content.

It is nice to see the prize money not being awarded to the entrant that simply spent the most money, but to those who dared to see how far their dollars and their imagination could stretch.

People would be more upset – and rightly so – if the filmmaker that spent the most dollars won the top prize – big money does not and should not be equated with victory.

Thankfully, the film festival judges agreed.

It's ironic this controversy is heating up now, days before the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Although the Oscars have long considered themselves the pre-eminent awards for filmmaking, there has always existed a struggle between 'artsy' films and 'star-studded blockbusters.'

Film enthusiasts often question whether or not the Oscars celebrate the best in filmmaking, or simply the most popular films. It is reassuring then that some smaller budget films like In the Bedroom, Monster's Ball and Iris are making their way into categories for the big-time award shows.

That said, if the Oscars want to appreciate film, they should appreciate all types and styles of film, not just blockbusters starring Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe or Julia Roberts.

The essential qualities that make a film great cannot be bought and neither should the industry's highest prizes.


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