On Grotesque Canon Of Competition in Art


What on earth can justify the viral growth of nonsense competitions in the film festivals? Who gives them the divine authority to praise some and discriminate some others? Losing and Winning are new concepts, contaminating our contemporary art, a diabolic innovation that diverts us from the pure elementary reason of art towards the filthy pleasure of business. Every single day a new pretentious self-centered film festival emerges from nowhere, all identical, claiming a different agenda, introducing “new talents”, praising the old ones and awarding so called the best. But how and when did it all start?

Two years after inauguration, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was the host of 250 people who came to celebrate the first Academy Award now known as Oscar. The hotel itself was part of the film industry family, as it was established by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Louis B. Mayer. And the ceremony was also like a family reunion, guests were greeting each other, drinking happily and passing gossips. At the end someone announced the award for the best film, a gesture that basically reflected the big studios’ respect for the most successful movie in the country. No harm, no foul so far. The Studio’s school was accepted and it was clear that they wanted their money back with maximum benefit and so nobody mistook this money talk as an artistic event. The year was 1929. We realised that business is a major part of this ill-fated child of art but as the money got bigger another mishap lined up.

Count Giuseppe Volpi, is known to every Venetian. He was the one who let this water engulfed land to glow at night by electricity. He also successfully negotiated to end the war between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy in 1912 which resulted to the attachment of a part of the northern Africa to Italy – today we call it Libya – including Tripolitania that Giuseppe Volpi himself governed for a while. In Mussolini’s era his business instinct mixed with political interests guided him to create the first international film festival in Venice (1932). Presenting movies from Italy and some other countries in one place was so exciting that the brilliant idea of competition made sense. He called the first prize “Coppa Mussolini” or Mussolini Cup to deceive people with the artistic aspect of Fascism! (What a brilliant idea!) And so the concealed compelling side of film industry was placed in full view and “Politics” laid his cards on the table.

Who would dare to say which one is better; Leonardo da Vinci or Rembrandt?

Who would dare to say which one is better; Leonardo da Vinci or Rembrandt? Flober or Falkner? Fellini or Ford?

The rest of the story is history; leaving “Art” as something in the line of a game, a commodity, or a skill at most, – something that you can judge, bet on and sell – competitive festivals contaminate the whole world and not only infect the cinema but also strangulate music, theater and television. Producers use the credit of the awards to have better options in distribution and advertisement after they convinced the audience that the importance of a film is firmly link to achieved prizes. And that’s  not all, in fact the silly part is still untold; people actually believe this deception as do the film makers themselves and the critics. They praise the prize when it goes to their preference and despise it when festivals apprise the undesirable. Thereafter, hilariously, they start to blame the jury for their political considerations or the lobbies for polluting the judges’ votes.

The famous ending of many of Chaplin’s films capture him whilst he carelessly turns back to the audience and rambles away. In many aspects I wish the serious critics could do the same and leave the festival game behind and wash out the disgusting glittery of the exclusive film magazines that suffocated with insincere smiles and laughable fashion. I wish they could deal only with the essential core of art to highlight the notion that It’s the diversity of art and an artistic point of view that counts and not the hierarchical approach of festivals.


6 responses to “On Grotesque Canon Of Competition in Art

  • masoud moravej

    Bravo .. to add up, I think what is seen over last years is a quite obscure inclination to take the various awards so serious and determinant in assessing the real art..

    • afshin forghani

      I do think so as well Masoud! also you can look at almost everything else too and see the same shame, like sport. The squeamish smell of this decadence is choking and redirecting this inevitable destiny from political commercialism to the righteous way seems like a story of drudgery and labour in vain.

  • Arya

    And demolishing “The Best” adjective.

  • John O'Brien

    But don’t get film festivals mixed up with awards. Festivals are places to go to see the films you otherwise might never see. Awards are the icing on the cake that attracts those very good films (and the bad ones) to the festival so that the quality level is high at the festival. There are a lot of festivals around! Most critics take awards only semi-seriously – Cannes is considered a more serious prize than an Oscar, for example.

    • Afshin Forghani

      John, I was about to express my disagreement over the competition in Art and of course not about the festivals. But on the other hand I assume, film festivals aren’t the best way for seeing movies! The process of seeing film, I imagine, does not start with the “projection time”, it begins when you get ready to go and see the movie with all your expectation, beliefs and experiences, it continues with actual act of seeing the film and will continue long after leaving the cinema, if it’s worthy. Festivals, by nature, paradoxically deprive us, at least partially, from experiencing such in full. Having said that, so long as we haven’t a proper active cinematheque around, film festivals are the only chance to keep ourselves up to date with the new streams in cinema or recalling the past pinnacles. I love them and hate them at the same time but I can’t deny that most of the best films I’ve ever seen were, and I guess will be, through festivals! And you’re right, of course, not all of them like each others, some are better, however wasn’t it better if they could put awards aside!

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