Movie critics should stop critiquing the moment they stepped behind the camera. This is absolutely ethical, and only to be expected from a critic.
For years, it has been a point of debate whether a film critic should remain a film critic once he himself begins to make films. I have no hesitation in saying that there is a clear case of conflict here. Indeed so.
Some of the greatest movie critics the world has known – like Francois Truffaut – stopped critiquing the moment they stepped behind the camera. This was absolutely ethical, and only to be expected from a critic as powerful as Truffaut.
I also know that major trade magazines, like The Hollywood Reporter, Screen and Variety, go even further: they do not let the same guy report and review. They have two sets of writers.
But in India, who bothers about these things. Including editors, who turn a blind eye to their own staffers who make films and review movies made by others, sometimes those that have been made by competitors.
I really do not wish to name those critics-cum-directors, for I know some of them very closely. But the tribe is increasing.
This was also the topic of discussion at the recent annual general meeting of FIPRESCI-India, an association of film critics that is affiliated to an international parent organisation.
At the conference held in Panaji during the recent International Film Festival of India, some members felt that it was absolutely wrong for one to be critiquing cinema if he himself was making it.
Unfortunately, FIPRESCI – India itself is not above board. Over the years, as one renowned director quipped, FIPRESCI-India has become a gathering of men and women who became members only to serve as jurors in movie festivals held outside India.
The FIPRESCI jury has always been highly regarded, and the prizes it awards are also held in high esteem. But this reputation appears to be taking a hit.
There is another aspect that is contributing to the diminishing respect for FIPRESCI-India. Some of the Indian members of FIPRESCI are not critics; there are those who have never written a review, and there was a lot of resentment when one such member was included in a recent jury.
This apart, I have seen in the course of my long association with FIPRESCI-India that sometimes Indian jurors attract flak from their foreign counterparts because of a poor knowledge of cinema.
It is imperative, therefore, that FIPRESCI-India stops extending its membership to either a director or one who is not a critic. A re-evaluation of the existing members may help the organisation recover its lost status.
You may laugh at this, but there are some members who say that they can be part of FIPRESCI-India because they make only documentaries or that their works have not been reviewed. How silly this argument sounds, and how desperate too, to hang on as a member.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]