vox populi

“Didn’t you know? My film was screened at Cannes”

Karen Avetisyan

Journalist, film critique

Recently, in a Yerevan museum I heard a museum guide competently and very devotedly introducing the museum’s exhibit when suddenly I overheard the firm statement of an alleged fact that supposedly some film not only was the closing film, but also was awarded one of the main prizes at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Minutes later, when the tour ended and there were no museum visitors in the vicinity, I approached the museum guide and said that the film in question was screened in the out-of-competition program, which already excludes it from receiving a main prize, notably, the Grand Prix. 

I added that I’m convinced that it likewise could not have been the closing film, but for additional reliability I urged the guide to check the information online (the internet to the rescue).

To this observation of mine, the museum guide replied very graciously that she feels no need to check the information since her source is more reliable and credible than any website. Already understanding which indisputable source she was referring to but all the same not concealing my surprise, I asked her to explain.

“The film’s director told me personally,” she whispered, her palm cupped to my ear, in an ironic and triumphant tone…

The sincere, devoted to her work, yet naive museum guide couldn’t even imagine what an unreliable source who requires constant checking the creator of a work — both beginner and famous — may be.

For years already, we have come across in the headlines of interviews and news stories the claim “my film was/will be screened at Cannes/Berlin/Venice” and other similar formulations.

The majority of both journalists and news consumers accept this information like melted butter, trusting media outlets or, like the museum guide did, the filmmaker, not seeing anything illogical in what was read or reported.

In fact, everything is logical, since at Cannes Film Festival, for example, there’s a huge film market (Marché du Film), where each year several thousands of films are shown.

And since these screenings geographically take place in Cannes, then it turns out that, yes, indeed, “my film was screened at Cannes this year.” From a linguistic and geographical perspective, it seems, there are no contradictions.

But clearly we’re dealing with semantic manipulation because there’s “Cannes” and then there’s Cannes. 

“Of course, that is not correct. In Cannes, there’s just one official program, which consists of competition and out-of-competition programs. While the rest, Un Certain Regard, Cinéfondation for short films, International Critics’ Week, and Directors’ Fortnight, though honorable, are non-official programs. For the love of God, you shouldn’t pretend that you participated in the festival if the film was screened in the non-official program. And as much as possible, we must put an end to these myths. The same applies also to participation in other festivals,” famous Russian film critic and permanent Cannes Film Festival visitor Andrei Plakhov explains.

All this does not mean that we’re not happy for our filmmakers’ efforts and don’t welcome their presence in international film markets or underestimate their importance. 

We want only that journalists and news consumers finally form a clear idea that will allow them to separate films that participate in competition programs from those that are screened at the film market. 

Ultimately, to appear in the competition program, a film goes through an artistic selection comprised of several stages — unlike non-competition platforms, where to be included it’s enough to make the required payment and ensure that the film meets the technical (not artistic) standards.

Mikhail Zhvanetsky said: “Do you not know why? A country’s achievements are always in those areas whose reliably is difficult to verify.”

Fortunately for all of us, technological progress has enabled an excellent opportunity called the Internet to check information. It remains for media literacy to develop in newsrooms — and among information consumers, a critical approach. 

Karen Avetisyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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