What Does a Film Festival Jury Do?
A film festival jury is a critical component of the festival experience. It’s the group that determines who gets the awards money.
Being a film festival juror is a difficult job. It means watching a lot of films over several days. Many of them are over three hours long.
What Is a Jury?
A film festival jury is a group of people that view and evaluate films at a film festival. These are often a mix of industry insiders like film critics and university film professors, filmmakers with ties back to the area, and sponsors who write the checks to award prizes.
One of the biggest reasons why a filmmaker wants to have their film seen by a jury is that it can give them access. Jury members may become a filmmaker’s mentor, friend, or even future collaborator if they see something they love. Filmmakers can also use a jury’s positive review to help them get distribution or attention from critics outside of the festival.
CFFS has a variety of youth-led juries — from our Catbus Kids to Fantastic Foxes and Iron Giants — that view and assess CFFS’ short and feature films for their Official Awards. Youth jurors are a valuable audience that contribute to the mission of CFFS in inspiring empathy and understanding with a nuanced view of our world.
The Jury’s Role
The jury’s mission is to select films for the festival program based on their quality, artistic and cinematic merit, entertainment value and originality. Those that receive the highest scores are awarded with top prizes at the festival’s closing ceremony.
The festival director, curator and/or head of programming will assign jurors to specific sections of the film festival. Each section has its own criteria and scoring system. For example, in the competition section a jury might choose the best feature film, while another might decide the best short film.
Aside from the obvious benefits like networking, mentoring and friendships, judging also allows a filmmaker to build a reputation as a tastemaker. Films that win jury prizes can go on to secure distribution or even get picked up by other festivals.
We are grateful that acclaimed professionals from the world of film and humanitarian activism accepted to be on this year’s Health for All Jury alongside senior WHO experts. We look forward to bringing you their recommendations soon.
The Jury’s Decision
A film festival jury’s work is a delicate one. After all, they are watching movies that have taken them to other worlds and introduced them to a myriad of themes, ideas and concerns. They need to spend hours of careful deliberations, often in a darkened room, with images, emotions and impressions percolating through their minds.
They also need to make decisions about the Official Awards, which include trophies, cash prizes and materials provided by the festival’s sponsors. One of the most important things is to be impartial. Jurors must try to put aside their personal feelings about the films they are watching and not compare one movie with another based on its nationality or other such criteria. They must look for excellence.
The Jury’s Reaction
The film festival experience is a unique one, and it can offer up important realisations for those who participate. The most obvious is the sheer scale of the commitment required to judge films in a darkened auditorium for hours on end.
The jury members may also face some awkward audience reactions. A prolonged standing ovation can feel strange for some directors, and can even ring false if the reaction is hostile. Whether the boos are real or fake, they’re a reminder that some audiences don’t like films that challenge the status quo.
This year, Cannes introduced the Impact Award, which aims to celebrate and support films that have an impact on society. It’s a prize that the jury hopes will encourage the film industry to rethink its practices and ethics. It’s being awarded at an Impact Focus Day led by The Human Safety Net Foundation. The winner will be honoured with an impact-themed statuette. The award will be presented in the presence of French Cesar-winning actor and director Elsa Zylberstein, Mexican actress and Oscar nominee Yalitza Aparicio, Lebanese actress and filmmaker Nadine Labaki, and Italian producer and actor Christian Petzold.