Last weekend the old and new film season collided. On Sunday night the long-awaited Baftas were given out, as the first major film festival, the 64th Berlinale, celebrated the arrival of the new season. While half the film world is still waiting for the final prizes for 2013’s best films to be given next month in Hollywood, the other half of the film world was looking ahead. The Berlinale had crowned the festival’s winning films already last Saturday and awarded Wes Anderson’s charming The Grand Budapest Hotel with the jury prize. The big surprise was the Golden Bear for Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice. However, it wasn’t the only surprise of last weekend.
The awards of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, also known as the Baftas, have become one of the most prestigious prizes in the film world and rank high up next to the Oscars and ahead of the Golden Globes. Being harsh one could say that no one really cares about the latter, as the selection criteria of the Hollywood Foreign Press is somewhat ambiguous. American Hustle had won best musical/ comedy – perhaps the jury simply didn’t have time to see the other films? But that wouldn’t be fair, very subjective to say and merely an opinion.
Nevertheless, there are various issues with these award ceremonies and perhaps accumulated sympathies become subjective opinions and eventually the base of judgement for some awards. Everybody seems to know it better and the films that really would deserve it never win – or so it seems. Ever since 1951 this is surely nothing new, when Marlon Brando was not awarded the Oscar for best actor as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. The world knows that most award ceremonies are not objective, but about favouritism. Although we have accepted that, there is still an occasional outcry when an American film with a Hollywood cast and a Mexican director wins Best British Film – like Gravity did last Sunday. If the film was outrageously good, perhaps one could swallow the explanation of a British post-production unit. However, there are more things to be learned from last weekend.
Considering the importance of the Baftas, one can understand Gravity’s producer’s wish to be part of it. However, if the same selection of films competes in the same categories at all award ceremonies, the festival or award becomes questionable itself. The Oscar contenders, the Golden Globe nominees and the Bafta’s film selection don’t seem to differentiate very distinctly anymore. Perhaps that is the prize an award or film festival has to pay to become prestigious. In that case, one can hope the Berlinale will remain what it is.
Obviously there is an enormous difference between award ceremonies like the Oscars and film festivals like the Berlinale. They distinguish in purpose and function, but nonetheless are part of the same circuit. The Berlinale is not only one of the biggest film festivals in Europe, but also uniquely incorporates a vast audience. Perhaps it is not as celebrated as Cannes, Venice or Sundance, but it does what it is supposed to do. The Berlinale preserves what the audience and film world love, as it provides a platform for films that wont be shown at every movie complex and most likely will not end up at the Oscars.