Urban Cinefile
"It was happening all the time, it hit my boots, it hit me, it hit the deck. ...And this was all in the studio "  -George Clooney on Mark Wahlberg's famous seasick barfing during the shoot of The Perfect Storm
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



With the Australian film critics’ awards now slotted for October 31 (moved from its usual February slot), the end-of-year award season offers Australian filmmakers a succession of showcases, with the IF awards announced on November 6 (in Sydney) and the AFI Awards on November 15 (in Melbourne). But they’re not all ‘on the same page’, as Andrew L. Urban explains.

Of 24 films vying for one or other award this year, there are only nine that are eligible (or entered) in all three awards. Recognising the main differences between the three award structures is fundamental to an understanding of what the various awards really mean. Each award system is based on different voting criteria and different types of voter, ranging from professional film critics to the wo/man in the street to industry professionals. You’ve heard how filmmakers working on a project like to be ‘on the same page’ – our film awards are not even in the same book.

"the merit of the differing awards"

Making value judgements about the merit of the differing awards is pretty meaningless unless those value judgements are based on an understanding of the three systems: so here is a snapshot to help fuel dinner party debates on the subject over the coming weeks.

On October 31 members of the FCCA – the professional film critics – and their guests will attend a Darling Harbour (Sydney) dinner for the presentation of awards in 14 categories, with 14 eligible feature films. The AFI Awards also has feature film 14 entries, but not the same 14. And the IF Awards has 22 films entered.

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, directed by Paul Cox, is excluded from the critics’ line-up on the grounds that it is not an Australian film by the international standard definition of the production company’s nationality. The AFI, after lengthy deliberations at board level, decided to allow Molokai to compete, on the grounds that all the key creative personnel were Australian, except the producer.

Envy is not up for the critics’ awards, nor is The Inside Story or The Man Who Sued God (see later). But Paul Cox’s Nijinsky is – yet it’s not on the AFI list of features (it’s in the doco section), nor is Trojan Warrior (not entered) or Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns (entered in 2000 when it was made, before rules required a commercial release in Australia).

Some of the disparity has come about because of the time shift required when the FCCA (Film Critics Circle of Australia) moved their awards back from February. This meant that films which were released before December 31, 2001 have already been considered in last year’s awards – like The Man Who Sued God, which opened in October last year. It is eligible for an AFI Award entry, though, because the AFI Awards year starts in October. (The cut off for AFI Award consideration is the end of September, but films which will be released after that date but prior to the awards are eligible as long as AFI members get a fair chance to see them before voting closes.)

So for the voting critics (your reporter being one) this is a transition year. The reasons for the change of date include what FCCA president Julie Rigg (ABC Radio National) refers to as positioning: “The FCCA Awards have been building considerably in reputation in recent years as a major event in the film calendar. We have decided to reposition them to kick off the Australian awards season to pointer the AFI awards, much as the New York and Los Angeles Critics Circle Awards pointer the Golden Globes and the Oscars."

But Australia doesn’t have an Oscars equivalent: the AFI Awards are voted by the membership* and anyone can be a member for $55 a year. The industry does play a part, but the AFI Awards are not regarded by all the industry as purely peer-assessed as are the Academy Awards. To be eligible (other than to be an Australian film) features have to have a commercial release in the 12 month period prior to the awards. On this point at least, the AFI and the FCCA are in synch.

(*Currently about 8,000 members, with undisclosed numbers voting for feature films and members have to see all features to be eligible to vote. As President of the Australian Screen Directors Association, Donald Crombie points out, the AFI voting system has been the subject of controversy “for as long as I’ve been in the industry…” )

The IF awards, however, only require a film to get a public screening, which can be anything from a festival slot to a community hall showing; there is no requirement for a commercial release. On the other hand, anyone can vote, and the voting system is based on a weighted ratings structure, which gives all films a more or less equal chance. This means that the films with the biggest attendance do not necessarily dominate the votes. Last year, although more people saw Moulin Rouge than Lantana, Lantana’s average rating was a little higher than that of Moulin Rouge, and so it won the IF award for Best Film.

(The overall scores [out of 5] for any given film are added together and averaged. The film with the highest average overall score wins the Lexus IF Award for Best Feature Film. The films with the highest average score in the other categories win IF Awards for, respectively, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Music and Best Script.) 

Why don't audiences score in other craft categories? IF says: “The Lexus IF Awards are, at heart, a popular choice Awards. And while it's true that audiences today are fairly sophisticated and film literate, industry feedback still suggests that general audiences are not really in a position to judge some of the more technical aspects of filmmaking such as editing and sound. Therefore the Awards for Best Direction, Editing, Sound and Production Design are judged by a suitably qualified industry panel.”

The voting in this year’s IF awards is now closed (October 4, 2002) and over 40,000 scores have been collected online (about 30%) and around Australia; Libbi Gorr will return to host the Lexus IF Awards 2002, which will be televised live by SBS on November 6 at 8:30pm, immediately after the Movie Show. 

Garage Days and Blurred, which are due to open immediately after the cut off dates, will be eligible for IF Awards 2003. And Black and White, which opens commercially on October 31, will be in next year’s AFI and FCCA Awards. 

"makes each award system unique"

For the first time, then, three national film awards are presented before the end of the calendar year, with a small but critical variation in cut off dates around September, so some films are eligible in one or two but not all three awards. The differing criteria - and differing voters - makes each award system unique. 

Which award reflects ‘popular’ appeal and which promotes excellence? How does the public assess each of them - and why are they all of such limited television appeal?

It can be argued that any award is a valuable trophy for a filmmaker and useful for marketing; but if it is undermined by a lack of clarity or transparency, it is of little genuine long term value beyond the hullabaloo of the glittering night itself. Filmmakers and award organisers need to talk about it.

31/10/2002 6/11/2002 15/11/2002
Australian Rules (Dir: Paul Goldman) Y Y Y
Beneath Clouds (Dir: Ivan Sen) Y Y Y
Beware Greeks Bearing Guns (Dir. John Tatoulis) Y Y 2000
Black and White (Dir. Craig Lahiff) 2003 Y 2003
Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (Dir. John Stainton) Y Y not entered
Dalkeith (Dir. Leigh Sheehan) Y Y not entered
Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky, The (Dir. Paul Cox) Y Y entered as doco
Dirty Deeds (Dir: David Caesar) Y Y Y
Envy (Dir: Julie Money) 2001 Y Y
Garage Days (Dir: Alex Proyas) Y 2003 Y
Hard Word, The (Dir: Scott Roberts) Y Y Y
Inside Story, The  (Dir: Robert Sutherland) * Y Y
Kabbarli (Dir. Andrew G Taylor) * Y *
Man Who Sued God, The  (Dir: Mark Joffe) 2001 Y Y
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (Dir: Paul Cox) ** ** Y
Money Shot, The (Dir. uncredited) * Y *
Rabbit Proof Fence (Dir: Phillip Noyce) Y Y Y
Real Thing, The (Dir. Stephen Amis) * Y *
Till Human Voices Wake Us (Dir: Michael Petroni) Y Y Y
Teeshe and Trude (Dir. Melanie Rodriguez) * Y *
Trojan Warrior (Dir. Salik Silverstein) Y Y not entered
Tracker, The  (Dir: Rolf de Heer) Y Y Y
Walking on Water (Dir: Tony Ayres) Y Y Y
WillFull (Dir: Rebel Penfold-Russell) Y Y Y
* No commercial release
** Not Australian by award definition

Published October 3, 2002

Email this article

Molokai - Australian or foreign?

Nijinsky - Feature or doco?

Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course - not entered for AFI

Awards Diary:

FCCA Awards Nominations announced
October 8, 2002

IF Awards Nominations announced
October 15, 2002

AFI Awards Nominations announced
October 18, 2002

FCCA Awards presented
October 31, 2002

IF Awards presented
November 6, 2002

AFI Awards presented
November 15, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020