Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are All These Films Real? Are Film Makers Finally Avoiding Alaska International Film Awards?

Once again, the dubious Alaska International Film Awards has their list of winners on their website.  I first ran into this organization when they were the Alaska International Film Festival - a name so close to the real Anchorage International Film Festival that even I, a blogger who covers the Anchorage Festival, was confused.

This is an organization that has no connection to Alaska I can find other than a rented mail box with a forwarding service in Spenard.  They have no festival.  There's no public showing of films. People send them films and money and in July they put up a list of winners.  Then they ask the winners to buy their awards.

This is very different from the Anchorage International Film Festival which has  nine exciting days and nights of film in early December.  Their motto is "Films Worth Freezing For."

I've written a number of posts about this starting when I first discovered them and asked
Film Festival Scam?  AIFF is NOT AIFF.

Several months later an attorney sent me a letter threatening to sue me.

My attorney called his bluff.  

When I contacted winners that first year, I learned that all of them were told they could get nice awards if they wanted to pay for them - not something that legitimate festivals do.  That's when I did a three part post:

In 2011 I did a post on the Winners of the now "Alaska International Film Awards."

This year I thought I should check again.

2013 finds far fewer winners than there have been in the past.  Last year (2012), based on the list on the AIFA website, there were 21 Main Awards (Best This and Best That) plus 30 Special Awards - Kodiak Award, Denali Award, and Northern Lights Emerging Talent Awards each had ten winners.  Then there were 21 more Screenwriting Awards.

This year (2013) there are still 21 Main Awards, but only 3 Special Awards and 3 Screenwriting Awards.  When I searched for ways to contact the winners, there were only a few that showed up on google anywhere except at the Alaska International Film Awards website.  I've sometimes had to work to track down film makers (from the previous AIFA winner lists, or the submissions to the Anchorage International Film Festival), but eventually, I've found some mention if not an actual website for nearly every film.  This time is was blank after blank after blank.  

What does this mean?  Obviously I can only guess.  Some possibilities that come to mind:

  • They are getting fewer submissions so they couldn't give out as many awards.
  • The quality of the films submitted has dropped sharply.
  • They are making up film names and directors so that they have a winner for each category.  (I find this one hard to write because for me it seems so outrageous.  But since I can't find so many of their winners online, it's possible.)
The last option seems so outrageous that  I was hesitant to put it up.  But in the past, when I looked up the films and contacted some of the film makers, there clearly were high quality films, films that had won awards in other festivals.  This time I found only a few films that had been in other festivals. And, as I said, I couldn't find anything about most of the films or the film makers.  Most film makers usually have at least a Facebook page if not their own website.  But not most of those listed as winners. 

Two of the 'winners' responded to my emails and confirmed that they were offered the opportunity to buy their awards again this year.

Below are some examples of my failed google searches.  Perhaps readers can do better than I.

  • The Best Alaska Film is Darkness Under the Sun by Ousman Jarju.  Using the name of the film and director, the only hits I got were two from the Film Festival website.  Just looking up the name - Ousman Jargu - I got seven Gambians on LinkedN, one of whom is the Director of Water Resources in Gambia and seems to have a connection to the United Nations.  I realize that there are Gambians living in Alaska, but it does seem odd that I can't find anything about this film and why it's the Best  of Alaska
  • Best Comedy - Ian Schmidt, Happy House.  Again, the only thing I can find Googling is the Film Festival announcement.  I can't find a film website or FB page for this.  There's an Ian Schmidt who does F/A 18 films on YouTube.  Looks like a military guy video taping his flying. 
  • Best Director:   Verme,  Simon Abizmal  - Same problem.  The only hits are the AIFA website.  Google asks me if I want Simon Abysmal?

  • Best Documentary:  The Lonely Life by Julia Preston.  Same problem.  Nothing shows up.
  • Drama: Enough of Love directed by Zach Jones  - same.
  • Educational Film: Fighting for Rights directed Joey Bryan - same.  Well, this actually took me to other pages.  I got something on Fight Club and lots of others that had nothing to do with the film or film maker. 
  • Experimental Film: Kumme directed by Amanda Lipariti - Same
  • Family Film: Beautiful Underneath directed Dan Calano - same, though there is a Dan Calano or two.
  • Best Foreign Film: Cercando di Amare directed by Andrea Gallo
    Closest I got besides the Awards website was this:
    Mozzarella Stories
    Edoardo de Angelis
    2011, Comedy
    Luisa Ranieri, Massimiliano Gallo, Andrea Renzi, Giovanni Esposito
  • Independent Film: Carry On Song directed by Carrie Sande - nothing
  •  Best Romance:  Ser Valiente directed by Graziele Ferriera
  • The only Graziele Ferriera was spelled Graziele Ferreira

Here's the trailer from the Grand Jury Award:
Lure trailer from bethmoves on Vimeo.

This is only the trailer, so maybe there is something more about the film that the trailer doesn't capture to explain why this won the big prize.

I hope this all means that people are being more careful about where they submit their films and read the rules and the websites.  When they don't even show the films, one should already be pushing the delete button.  


  1. Wow. Kudos to you. You've really been thorough in your research.

    After all you have done to expose this possible charlatan, have you convinced the legitimate “Anchorage International Film Festival” to post VERY large disclaimers in the future on its web site and in all of its communications in order to distinguish itself from this and any other imposters?

  2. Thanks Elsie, there were others who helped and have posted about this and other dubious festivals. Actually the real AIFF knew before I did. They're playing it low key and rely on my blog and others to get the word out. If you check those old posts, they go back to 2009. These guys did a similar thing in Hawaii and were sued and part of the settlement was changing their name from 'festival' to 'awards'.

    I've mentioned this elsewhere, and I probably should have again here - I blog the AIFF. I started out of interest. They asked if I would be their blogger. I said I'd rather be free to write what I want without it reflecting on them. They link to me and give me a pass. My interest is seeing good films in Anchorage.


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