Murcia Festival Honors FIPRESCI

The International Film Festival of Murcia, Spain, March 3-8, 2015, dedicates a “Honorific Award” to FIPRESCI, in recognition of the work of film critics and their organization. General Secretary Klaus Eder will receive the award for FIPRESCI on March 7. Here’s the text he wrote for the festival catalogue.

FIPRESCI – The International Federation of Film Critics

Film critics, members of FIPRESCI, are working in 68 countries worldwide, from the US to Japan, from Norway to South Africa; and all over Europe. Who needs them, who reads them, where do they publish, how do they make their living? These are essential questions which occupy us. 

This year, we celebrate our 90th anniversary (FIPRESCI was founded in 1925 in Paris and Brussels). During these nine decades, film criticism has passed through different phases. In the beginning, it was necessary to establish movies as a regular subject of newspaper art pages, in the same way as literature, music or theater criticism. While American critics considered (and consider) movies as a part of the entertainment industry, their European colleagues preferred to take cinema as an art and underlined the creative role of the director: the European “Authors’ Cinema” of the 60s was invented by filmmakers as well as by critics.

Now we are again observing change. We’re in a period of the vanishing film critic. The economic problems of printed dailies and weeklies concern the arts sections. There’s less space for film criticism, if it’s not already outsourced to the newspapers’ web editions (which means more readers and less influence). 

The other limitation is caused by cinema itself. While films in the “good old times” were to be seen on a big screen in a dark room, sort of a church, and only there, today only a small proportion of films arrive in movie theaters. More films are consumed on TV, on DVD, via streaming or download. 

So do film critics write only about the films which get a theater release? Write for a minority of viewers? And what, after all, is a film critic, in times where everybody can write, on the internet, a few lines about any film and can call themself a critic?

The answer to a rather unclear situation can only be professionalism and quality. Readers are intelligent and sensitive (more than one generally supposes). They read between the lines to assess whether a critic knows cinema, whether he or she is someone you can trust, whether they open a new view on a film.

We try to introduce this aspect of quality into our work. We present prizes to films at around 70 international film festivals each year. Beginning with our very first “FIPRESCI Prize” at the very first festival of Cannes (in 1946), we have now labeled more than 1,000 films as the choice and favourite of the critics (with many masterpieces of film history among them). We are currently working on a database of all FIPRESCI Award winners, for details visit our website (which we relaunched a few weeks ago with a new design and enhanced features). 

The regular festival prizes are accompanied by special prizes: a “Grand Prix – Best Film of the Year”, as voted by our members; and the “Discovery Award”, one of the official European Film Awards, for which we cooperate with the European Film Academy.

At several festivals we also co-organize workshops for young critics – Berlin, Guadalajara, Mexico, Durban, Warsaw, Tallinn. We need to care about the future of our profession, no?

Film critics appreciate (or not) movies. It’s rare that the work of critics is appreciated. That the International Film Festival of Murcia has dedicated an award to us, is an honor which we accept with pleasure and gratitude.

Klaus Eder
FIPRESCI, General Secretary