we didn’t win the basel film prize. that’s the bad news. this came as even less of a surprise than it might have done - and we did consider ourselves rank outsiders - because while the official announcement was made last night as part of the really rather swell awards ceremony at the basler stadttheater, we actually knew that we hadn’t won since tuesday. one of the jurors had, somewhat indiscrete perhaps, but with no ill intentions and very obviously sorry about the turn of events, let it slip towards one of our actors that try as he might, he could not sway the jury vote our way. that’s the weird news: for half a week we had to pretend that we didn’t know the outcome when, excruciatingly, we did. so whenever one of the organisers wished us good luck, i had to smile at them inanely and utter something proto-cryptic like: ‘thanks, to the extent that luck comes into it...’ or similar.
we also knew, and that’s the good news (sort of), that it was between us and another film and that there was only one vote in it. so we were, it would appear, credible contenders and close runners up. that’s encouraging to know and in itself very gratifying. so cheers for (and to) that!
things then went from what it would be churlish to call ridiculous (although it was more than a little strange) to the genuinely sublime when, asked by the host of the awards ceremony how the panel felt about our category, one of the jurors grabbed the microphone from the hand of one of her colleagues, insisting that she handle this, and then emphasised to the level of labouring the point that there had been, from the word go, one clear winner and one winner only on which the panel wholeheartedly agreed as one. mostly, at events like these, even for the sake of sheer courtesy, jurors go out of their way to stress how difficult it had been to reach a decision and how every entry in a category - in ours there were five - had its own merits. so this must have come as a bit of a slap in the face to our fellow filmmakers who ought to have been entitled to think that they were at least in with a chance. for us it had just the tiniest whiff of ‘nay, but she protesteth too much’ about it, because we had intelligence pretty much to the contrary and by now every reason to believe that the fact that we had that intelligence had reached back to the panel...
(perhaps a touch unorthodox also the fact that one of the two people then accepting the award was the person who had hosted our screening, introduced our film and conducted the Q&A session - and wished us luck! - which, without wanting to cast any aspersions, to an outsider like myself, is in danger of conveying an impression, rightly or wrongly, as if some conclusions were ever so slightly more foregone than even we, with our four days’ advance notice, could have anticipated...)
all of this notwithstanding it was a splendid event and i feel genuinely happy and privileged to have been nominated and considered and invited, and from what i’ve seen and heard it looks as though the prize went to a worthy winner. (as it happens a documentary about an organic chocolate farmer in ghana. wherein lies one more slight oddity, that feature-length docs and narrative features were judged in the same category.)
the only thing i really wish had happened differently was that the jurors hadn’t contented themselves with watching the DVD (in our case an early version, with unfinished grade and sound) and - as one of them put it - made the award dependent on ‘what mood we were in on that day’. that, for my money, isn’t strictly the best and most professional way of going about handing out several grand worth of prizes that may or may not make a significant difference to their potential recipients. since the experience of watching a film at home on DVD is so categorically different to watching it in a dark cinema on a proper screen with decent sound and in communion with other people, my recommendation, to film jurors the world over, would be to watch the films at the official screening and then get together to come to a decision. i’m not suggesting that with this sort of procedure our film would have won, but i’m fairly certain that all the films that the completely separate selection panel had so diligently nominated in the various categories deserved to be seen by the jurors in the setting they were intended for, which, in our case, and i imagine also in the case of all the other feature films, most assuredly was where they were shown so beautifully and in such fine and compelling quality: the cinema.
but, as our DP gregor put it afterwards: the first ice is broken, now, like an ice breaker, it's full steam ahead. i rather liked the analogy. 'but maybe', he added, with a glint in his eye, 'we're a submarine...'