Bret Easton Ellis gaat voor passie
Ongebruikelijk voor een juryvoorzitter maar in Gent lichtte Bret Easton Ellis een tipje op van de jurering…
Ik verkies een jury die haar passie volgt in plaats van een jury die compromissen sluit. Dat zei Film Fest Gent juryvoorzitter Bret Easton Ellis net voor hij in de Gentse Pacificatiezaal de winnaars van de competitie bekend maakte. Bij de besluitvorming koos hij voor een democratische stemming. Bret Easton Ellis had eerder al laten blijken dat zijn favoriete films niet bij de prijswinnaars waren. Tot aan de prijsuitreiking hield hij zijn lippen echter stijf op elkaar.
Woensdagmiddag maakte hij zijn persoonlijke favorieten bekend. ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’, ‘Turist’ en ‘Leviathan’ waren de drie toppers uit de veertien titels tellende competitie en het was voor hem een schok toen uit de eerste verkennende stemronde bleek dat ze niet op de eerste rang stonden. Maar democratie en de passie van een paar juryleden stuwden de Frans-Colombiaanse film ‘Gente de bien’ van Franco Lolli naar de eerste plaats.
Of hij dan ontgoocheld Gent verlaat? Integendeel. Na bezoeken aan Venetië, New York en nog andere festivals rekent hij Gent, dat hij voordien niet kende, tot de beste. Zelden was de omkadering en jurybegeleiding zo goed als in de Arteveldestad. Bovendien had hij een reeks goede films gezien. Volgens Bret Easton Ellis zijn filmfestival eigenlijk “unfair” want het is niet fair om films met mekaar te vergelijken. Om de beoordeling in zijn ogen zo zuiver mogelijk te houden, verbood hij zijn juryleden om onderling over de geziene films te spreken. Geen discussies zonder dat we de hele competitie gezien hebben, was het ordewoord. Bij het diner (kreeft!) na de laatste competitiefilm diende ieder jurylid zijn/haar kaarten of liever punten op tafel te leggen. Met het vermelde schokeffect. De begeestering voor ‘Gente de bien’ deelde hij niet maar hij liet de democratie haar werk doen.
Aan het begin van zijn slottoespraak waren er nog verontschuldigingen voor wat hij over Erik Van Looys ‘The Loft’ had gezegd. Zijn oordeel had hij in een eerder besloten kader gegeven en hij was echt geschrokken over de heisa die hij daarmee in de pers had veroorzaakt. Ook ten opzichte van het Film Fest Gent had hij als juryvoorzitter voorzichtiger moeten zijn. Zijn oordeel over de film had overigens geen uitstaans met wat hij over de persoon en de regisseur Erik Van Looy dacht. Ze konden het nog altijd uitstekend met mekaar stellen en bezegelden dat met de meest hedendaagse onder de vriendschapsbanden: een selfie.
Lees hier de integrale speech:
I just want to make a few opening comments before we award the prizes so if you would kindly give me five minutes…
And I think one of the reasons I was approached by the Gent Film Festival to head its jury was because I am publicly, sometimes in controversial ways, passionate about film—I write and produce movies, I’m in the middle of directing a film, I have a podcast about film, I write about film, I tweet about film and I believe in movies as a great art form. And the past week at Gent has rekindled my passion for films. I cannot believe the number of good movies from around the world—China, Russia, Sweden—that I saw in just the span of 9 days along with my fellow jurors.
I am pretty sure I saw three truly great films here last week out of the 14 that were in competition. And it is rare to see three great new films in any given year anywhere let alone in a week at a film festival in Brussels but the selection here was wide-ranging and for the most part exciting and a thrill. I’ve been to a lot of film festivals from Venice to Sundance to New York but I think Gent might be one of the best film festivals I’ve ever been to. It was amazing. And this is coming from someone who is usually disappointed by everything…
Film festivals aren’t fair. Juries at film festivals aren’t fair. Prizes aren’t fair. They try to be but the process itself—five strangers selected to watch fourteen films and then award just one of them for best picture—can be a task filled with tension, anger, contentiousness, annoyance, compromise—all of it exacerbated by the fact that everyone knows in the end this isn’t really fair and a certain kind of alienation can foster within juries. But this didn’t happen with this jury because I wasn’t going to let it happen with this jury—and it helped that we all really liked each other, we all got along really well, we understood the notion of what the film festival means, of what the prizes mean. And we bonded as much as we could while being shuttled from movie to movie to lunch to movie to movie to dinner to late night screenings—and we made a promise not to discuss any of the films we had watched together until we had an initial vote and this would take place AFTER we had seen all the films in competition in order to see what films would emerge as our top picks—and I did not want any of us to be influenced by our fellow jurors opinions of the movies as we watched them during those nine days: we talked about other things but none of us talked about the movies we had seen keeping the voting process pure and without influence—so there was no discussion of the movies in competition at all during last week, none of us knew what the others were thinking.
So after watching the final film in competition we did our initial vote over a lovely dinner of sashimi and lobster on Monday night, revealing our cards as they say in the parlance of poker. And I thought that there would be no doubt what the best film would be—it was absolutely going to be one of my top three picks—I was positive the rest of the jury would agree and so the voting began and I was somewhat confident…
…and yet the top two films that emerged were actually at the very bottom or near the bottom of my list of the 14 films in competition—now this does not mean I didn’t like these movies, it just means that I responded to the other movies more. Most, and in one case, all of the others more. It. Was. Shocking. I had no idea that the two top choices were even going to be movies we would consider much less even talk about or mention.
The top movie was the top choice by a fairly wide margin, it lead by 6 points in our point system, which allotted each jurors top choice 10points, our second choice 8 points, our third choice 6 points, and so on with a minimum of your top three choices or if you preferred to a maximum of your top 5 choices. Some jurors chose 4 movies. Some three. Some five. So after my shock wore off—with the help of a lot of gin—and the realization that MY top film that I awarded ten points to was only the second choice of only one of my fellow jurors, and perhaps tellingly the only other man on the jury, and was not on any of the lists of the other three jury members, I realized: ah, yes, this is what it means to be on a jury again. We had a passionate and very serious and searching debate about why these two top movies emerged and I learned something about why these two films mattered so much to my jury as I think perhaps the other jurors learned why I responded so strongly to my top three choices, which admittedly did appear on a few of the other jurors lists but not enough to make it into our top 2 choices.
So even though none of my preferences are being awarded today I do believe that a passionate jury is more important than a compromised jury—I did not want us to be a jury that tries to get on neutral ground and award a movie that everyone can well kind of agree on but was no one’s passionate choice. That wasn’t going to happen with this jury. I might not have been passionate about the top two movies we are going to award—but other people were very passionate and moved by the top two films when perhaps I was only mildly touched. We were always going to award the film that the most people were passionate about and that is what has happened. And no I was never going to use my veto power as Jury President to force my own choice in—it was always going to be a democratized jury.
There was also an immense passion for the film that came in second place and which it was decided we will award a special jury prize for—the prizes for music and best short movie were also quite quickly and passionately decided upon as well—there was very little debate even though one or two of us disagreed about these choices, but three or four jurors were passionate about them. This was never going to be a compromised vote and even though none of my choices are being awarded here I am delighted to have worked with this jury, with Dana, Patrice, Heloise, Sergei, as well as our lovely den mother Rita, who tirelessly made sure we got to every screening on time and helped nourish us with meals and encouragement, thank you Rita, and so I announce these prizes with the pride that I represent a jury who cares so much about the art of film—we might disagree with each other but I think it is with full on respect. And so with that being said—my top choices were Black Coal, Leviathan, and Turist, with Leviathian and Turist rounding out the juries top four choices.
I will tell you in a minute what the top two choices are—and please forgive me for any mis-pronunciations. Thank you.