David Farrier has slowly been going crazy trying to get an answer about who’s actually behind the odd film festival that might not even play your stupid film anyway.
Sometimes when you write something saying something is possibly a little bit bad, people get in touch saying you are bad.
“Well, y’know, once it’s published you have to stand by it, right?” someone wrote to me about my piece on the Auckland International Film Festival.
“I can respect that. They’re not tricking anyone though. And you didn’t prove they have or did. You clickbaited your article”. The fan ended with, “But I guess what really irks me … is the smug elitist attitude you have in debasing it while it’s finding its feet and doing no harm and demeaning the organiser, who is a genuine nice guy. Bad form.”
Told off, I wondered if I had gone wrong, somewhere.
What if this was just a little itty-bitty baby film festival that was trying to get off the ground, and I’d come along and taken a giant steaming dump on it?
Then I started hearing from some filmmakers, beginning with an American chap.
“I was just ‘accepted’ to the festival, but it’s not screening my film because ‘only the award winners screen’,” he wrote.
“From what I can tell in order for people to be accepted and tweet out laurels in an attempt for more people to pay them next year. I was trying to get in to a smaller NZ festival because we have friends there, but this was not what I had in mind!”
I got him to forward me the email he got from the festival, and as you can see, despite his film being “selected”, it may not even play.
“Please note only winning films will be screened”.
For a film festival, this is very, very strange.
I mean, what is the point of accepting a film into a film festival if the film might not even play? If you’re selected, say, to play in a sport team, it would be a bit odd to then be told that didn’t mean you’d, well, play.
I also noted that the email encouraged him to submit to other categories, which all had to be paid for, of course.
Then I started hearing from a number of New Zealand filmmakers who reported the same experience. Some of them had the added frustration of learning they’d submitted their films to the wrong festival, thinking they were entering the New Zealand International Film Festival.
“Read your AIFF article on the Spinoff the other day and realised I was duped!” one filmmaker wrote to me.
“I swear I had submitted my short film into NZIFF but I checked again, I actually submitted to AIFF. (lol I’m so dumb). But anyways, I got an “acceptance” email from them (which seemed so unprofessional)”.
I noted that all these emails were signed off “The AIFF Team”. Whoever was emailing was not including a name.
To me, it just seemed to indicate a lack of transparency – along with a long list of other examples, like not revealing who was on the judging panel to pick these “winning” films.
But most of all … it just made me curious. Mainly … who was behind this thing?
In part 1 I’d learnt that the AIFF seemed to share a template and copy from the Chandler International Film Festival, something New Zealand organiser Anand couldn’t, or wouldn’t, explain.
After digging a bit deeper into the site though, I saw that the AIFF website appeared to be so lazily copied they hadn’t taken out contact details for the Chandler festival:
Ok, I thought to myself: so either these are both run by the same person, or the AIFF is cribbing content from this other festival.
I’d need to talk to someone behind the Chandler festival.
According to the site, it’s these people:
Clearly I needed to talk to founder and festival director, Mitesh Patel.
I’d already tried emailing the festival a few weeks ago, and there was no direct contact for Mitesh – or anyone – on the site. So I found him on Facebook and sent him a friend request and a private message:
A week or so later, he replied with a thumbs up. Look, we’ve all done it. Accidentally hit that thumbs up button. But maybe he meant to send it, as he went on to compliment my article:
OK, so Mitesh told me the AIFF is not under his control, which I took to mean he was saying he had nothing to do with it:
“I didn’t say it’s not me”.
Okay, so Mitesh does have something to do with the AIFF.
I’d asked for his email… but he wouldn’t give it his address.
He then told me off for talking to him on Facebook, which was “not the right way”… before not giving me his email address, and blocking me on Facebook.
Look, none of this really advanced anything for this story, besides making me infinitely more suspicious about it. I didn’t even know what I was suspicious about!
So I sent another email to the generic Chandler Film Festival (and a possible email for Mitesh a friend had sniffed out online):
… and included a bunch more questions.
I got a pretty quick reply stating that the Chandler Festival is not associated in any way with the Auckland festival.
This was very confusing, because Mitesh had told me earlier “I didn’t say it’s not me”. I also noted that just like the AIFF, this festival also signed up with a generic “CIFF Team”.
So… I replied with those screenshots I’d taken of the AIFF website, which clearly linked them to Chandler. And whoever was writing to me changed their tune.
OK, so Mitesh was now an adviser to the AIFF.
Thing is, on a page deeper down on the AIFF page, I now noticed that Mitesh was openly listed as an organiser. Along with three mentions of the NZ dude I’d spoken to a few weeks ago, Anand:
What does this mean? It means that the Auckland International Film Festival (and other festivals organised by Mitesh Patel) really need to up their game, and start explaining the way they run things.
Right now, you have a festival that can’t give a clear answer to who is behind it, to the point where they seem to be actively misleading in their correspondence.
This is a festival that offers scant transparency about not only who’s running it, but who judges the films, and who’s even replying to emails.
For your entry fee, you might be lucky enough to be accepted – and be emailed some laurels to spread around on social media, about a festival that may not even play the film it just accepted.
As these laurels spread, they almost act as an advert for other people to enter. The more people who enter, the more legit it seems.
Then of course there’s the naming issue, as some clearly think they’re submitting to the NZIFF, only to find they’ve submitted to a confusing festival that has an almost identical name.
And you know what? I might go. It’s on at TAPAC on June 2nd and 3rd.
What films will play? Will people that got into the festival go, only to find their film won’t be playing? What did get accepted? I think I saw a music video for Devilskin made it in.
I hope my “smug elitist attitude” hasn’t come across to strongly in this piece.
This is going to be the weirdest film festival ever.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.