Monday, December 01, 2008

AIFF - "Official Selection," "Films in Competition" - What Do The Film Categories Mean?

If you look at the program guide for the Anchorage International Film Festival, the films are divided into different categories. I get the
  • Features - 'fiction' films over about 55 minutes
  • Documentaries" "non-fiction" films over about 55 minutes
  • Shorts - 'fiction' films under 55 minutes
  • Short Documentaries - 'nonfiction' films under 55 minutes
  • Animation - Animated films - these can be feature length or short, and while most are 'fiction' I guess you could have an animated documentary - a biography of Mickey Mouse maybe? No, this would be a interesting challenge.

But there are other distinctions I didn't quite understand, so I've been emailing and talking to several of the people running the Festival (Rand and Tony and a one of the documentary coordinators from last year) to find out what these terms mean exactly and how it all works. All the highlighted terms will be explained, though some show up before the explanation. Patience.
  • Pre-screening Committees - Committees are selected early on to view all the movies submitted to the Festival in the specific film categories. So, there is a committee for documentaries, for features, for shorts, and for animations. These committees select the films that will become official selections. There are five to ten people on a pre-screening committee. They've completed their work some time ago.
  • Official Selections - An official selection is any film that was submitted to the festival, was accepted by the appropriate pre-screening committee, and paid the entry fee.
  • Special Selections - Special selections are films that the festival invites or solicits after the submission process has ended to round out the program, usually they have to pay a screening fee for these films and often times these films are already in theatrical release and this category applies to classic films as well, such as Chinatown that will be shown next week.
  • Films in Competition - The pre-screening committees are given a rough guide about how many films they can accept as official selections. Of those, they pick what they consider the best. These are then the films in competition and get sent to the jury panels. These films are the contenders for the Golden Oosik Awards. Now, there is some negotiation between the coordinators of the pre-screening committees and director of the film festival to insure that ultimately there is a good balance of genres (they'd rather not have every feature be a comedy for example) and national representation, etc. They have to narrow it down so that the jury panels have time to watch the films and make their choices.
  • Jury Panels - Once the Films in Competition are selected the pre-screening committees are done and the films are given to jury panels. The jury panels get together as a group in a theater and watch them all together. I think these also tend to be five to ten people who haven't been involved the selection process before this. They choose the best films for each category. I think they're supposed to have this done by the middle of the next week. These best films win the Golden Oosik awards at the Saturday night awards ceremony.
  • Audience Awards - All feature length films (over 55 minutes) are eligible for the audience award which is voted on by . . . well, you know who. This is new this year. The best audience award feature film and documentary will be screened on the last day of the festival, they will be announced at the awards party on Sat. December 13. I'm not quite sure the logistics of how people will vote, but we'll find out. Other film festivals must have figured out how people who don't see all the films can vote reasonably fairly.

Last year I didn't understand any of this. When I was picking my own favorites, I hadn't taken into consideration the category of films in competition. I'm pointing this all out here so others can understand it. Before the Festival begins I'm going to first focus on making it easier for people to know what the Films in Competition are for each category and what the schedules are so you have a chance to see as many as possible. I'll post the schedule for the Feature Films in Competition soon.

But other people will be more interested in films of specific genres - comedy, drama, etc. Other people will just want to see shorts or animation. And some will be interested in films from certain countries or about specific topics. They won't care if the films are in competition or not. And there are the special presentations which have been invited and may prove to be better than the films in competition. But I'm going to start with the films in competition, then, if I have time left over, I'll go onto some other focus. Once the festival starts, I'll report on what I go to.

Check the tab on top - Alaska International Film Festival 2011 - for an overview of posts I do on the festival this year.  The 2010 tab is also still up if you want to check on last year's festival. [UPDATE:  And now there's a  AIFF 2012 Tab]

[UPDATE:  October 17, 2016 - This year's selected films are up at the AIFF2016 website.]

[UPDATE: October 5, 2016 - This year's Festival website says the selected officials will be announced on October 14, 2016.  I've started a page the 2016 Festival, which you can see in the tabs above.]

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