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Ever Wondered What a Film Festival Juror Does?

We take you inside their world

BY Agnes Amondi

Nov 22, 2022, 08:45 AM

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So much of film festivals revolve around films. Obviously, because that’s the primary attraction. Other than that, the directors and some cast members of highly anticipated or break-out films tend to hog the spotlight. 

As important as these people are to the event, there’s another team of people that’s crucial to a festival. The jury. Do they ever cross your mind? If not, you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with that. 

The jury decides who wins. But that’s not all. So what else do they bring to a film festival? We picked the mind of one of the jury members of this year’s International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) Sylvia Vassilatos. She is a freelance media professional and has worked at the event multiple times.
Sylvia Vassilatos

How did you become a film festival juror?

“I cannot answer the criteria by which the International Images Film Festival picked their jury team but we all seemed to be media and film professionals so I assume that was the fishing pool.”

What do film festival jury members do?

“The team of jurors have a list of films they are tasked to adjudicate. Obviously, they must watch these and make a balanced and justifiable judgement. When the festival is winding down, they meet and discuss the adjudication and come to a conclusion as to who wins, the runner-up and the other positions.”

How do you handle the festival marathon?  

“Jurors don’t have to watch every film at a festival; only ones assigned to them and ones they’d love to see. They do this at their convenience and then meet to discuss their findings and select winners and runners-up.”

You work with other jurors during a festival. What’s your experience been like?

“It’s great working with the other jurors because they are all other industry professionals of different skillset from acting, directing and writing, to set design. It’s been a fantastic strange of ideas, thoughts and insights.”

As a juror at the International Images Film Festival for Women, what are your impressions of the event?

“It’s always a pleasure to work at because they’re really organised in terms of logistics and busing the jurors and staff from venue to venue as required.

Additionally, they do outreaches in areas outside of the city centre and high-density areas. This whole thing should be a tourist attraction. It’s a good way to experience Harare and the cultural scene. It’s given me an opportunity of viewing films I’d probably never have the chance to see.”

What are some of the best films you’ve seen as a juror?

“I can’t really answer that fairly because there were so many fantastic offerings from so many different budgets. The African offerings were really impressive. I saw some movies I’d never have a chance to see and from places, I wouldn’t have expected. The one that really stood out for me was derived from a book by Ngozie Chimamanda Half a Yellow Sun. That was a real winner in every sense.”

What tips do you have for people who submit their films at festivals?

“Being a juror doesn’t make me an expert. Anyone is qualified to judge a film. If you were the audience, you can make a judgement. Films can be judged at home, in movie houses, and everywhere. 

This jury happens to be an industry professional but I wouldn’t consider myself any form of expert and I don’t think one needs to be one to be on such a jury.

“ That said, the only advice I can give to any filmmaker is to avoid boring your audience. You’d rather have a short, good film than a long and boring production.”