With the rapid development of the film industry, it is no surprise that more and more film festivals take place around the world. Some are in the A-list, like Cannes and Berlinale, curating the best motion pictures of the year and bringing huge impact to the industry and public, culturally and economically. On the other hand, some of the film festivals target a more niche audience and present unique characteristics to raise awareness on certain issues or cultures. But there are also a few are suspected for their disreputable intentions.
In 2017, the news of a Chinese movie winning the award of best picture in Houston International Film Festival broke out on the Chinese internet, setting off the discussion of the actual value of winning an international award. The movie Fatal Countdown: Reset is a Chinese action movie starring Mi Yang, a famous actress known for her unimpressive acting. Her uncomprehending fame aside, the movie is rated 5.2/10 on IMDB and 4.8/10 on Douban (Chinese equivalent of IMDB). It is safe to say the movie is at most mediocre on any scale. So how is a film like this capable of winning an award in Houston?
As it turns out, the Houston International Film Festival is not exactly a prestigious film festival to begin with, as there’s almost no threshold of entering the competition. Moreover, for a legitimate film festival, shady companies or organisations in China would aim for setting a Chinese film category by sponsoring the festival. On one hand, the film festival thrive on the influence and revenue brought by the stars and companies, which have a say in winners of most categories. On the other hand, the movie (especially the bad ones) needs the recognition of an international film festival which sounds authoritative and prestigious while in fact misleading and confusing to the audience. Then for promotion purposes, the logo of such award would be printed on every poster and attracts the audience who is unwitting to the situation.
It is hard to determine which party in the interest chain is innocent. But evidently, such phenomenon is sabotaging the development of the film market. Additionally, it is severely undermining the prestige of the real film festivals. Most countries have one or more established film festival named after the city that holds the event. However, pseudo film festivals name themselves something very similar to imply prestige and create confusion. Not only do the fake film festivals have least value on representing the culture and explore the possibility of film, but also they encourage filmmakers who are blinded by fame and money to produce bad films without making any effort, expecting to gain popularity by hooking up with some shady awards. Nonetheless, fake film festivals cannot bring huge influence because as audience, we still have our own system of judgement in mind about films. I would believe such phenomenon would eventually be eliminated by the market.