Daejong Film Awards under fire for attendance requirement
The Daejong Film Awards (or Grand Bell Awards) has found itself in a spot of controversy leading up to its upcoming ceremony in November, having announced a recent change in its rules. Per the change, awards will not be given to winners who do not attend the ceremony — they will instead be given to different nominees.
The announcement was made earlier this week in a press conference held in Seoul in October 13, citing that the organizing committee wanted to do away with awarding by proxy, disliking the practice of actors’ representatives accepting in lieu of the absent stars. The head of operations for the Daejong Film Awards, Jo Geun-woo, stated in interviews the following day that this decision was arrived at after discussions between the judging committee and eight organizations within the Motion Pictures Association of Korea. He added that they would work to ensure that fairness would not be compromised and that there would be no problems with the awarding of winners.
Which… seems fine to say in theory, but impossible to implement. It’s no surprise that the reaction has been largely derisive; backlash was swift and loud, and the public scorned the event as becoming the Perfect Attendance Awards or (in a pun on the name, daejong sang) the Half-Assed Awards (daechoong sang). This sounds, frankly, like an attempt to fix one problem by creating an even bigger one.
When Jo was asked what would happen in the event that all nominees were no-shows, he replied, “The details have not been decided yet. We will decide by the end of the month and make the announcement, and work to make sure it does not cause controversy.” TOO LATE.
The criticism isn’t just coming from the public, but from within the industry itself. Film industry professionals within the Motion Pictures Association are likewise scornful of the move, saying that representatives from organizations were excluded from the decision meeting. Sources with the Korea Film Actor’s Association called it difficult to understand and disrespectful of the actors.
The chair of the Motion Pictures Association of Korea, Jo Dong-gwan, defended the decision and said representatives were not excluded, naming one organization president, director Jung Jin-woo of the Korea Film Directors’ Society, as an attendee at the meeting. However, director Jung contradicted the claim, saying that such a decision wasn’t made at the meeting in question. He added, “Actors could have scheduling conflicts with filming or personal reasons causing them to not attend. Saying that they won’t be given an award if they don’t attend is ridiculous.”
I’m surprised that the committee found it necessary to take this drastic a step in the first place, since the Grand Bell Awards is one of the film industry’s highest-profile awards, and doesn’t usually lack for attendance. It’s the oldest film awards festival around, with red carpets that are glamorously star-studded and many of its winners A-list. Was the judging committee miffed that somebody skipped out on the ceremony last year? And even if the organizers were huffy that their awards were not being taken adequately seriously, isn’t this the kind of think you keep behind closed doors? The kind of warning you issue to the stars’ management quietly, not in writing, in veiled subtext?
The Grand Bell Awards hasn’t been without controversy before; its hitherto favorable reputation was tarnished in 1996 when it awarded Best Picture to Henequen, a film that had not even been released yet due to editing hiccups, giving rise to lobbying accusations. And there has been some talk in the past doubting the overall fairness in the judging process, including rumors that actors who wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony were excluded from nominations, or that there was a push to award popular films. (The results in 2012 drew some heat, when Gwanghae, the Man Who Became King massively swept with 15 awards. Apparently that was the ironic result of adopting blind judging that year.)
Still, I’m taken aback at how this latest announcement was stated so baldly and shortsightedly. How did they think making the subtext the actual text would improve the situation when they’re essentially coercing attendance by dangling trophies as part-carrot, part-hostage? Who thought this was a good idea?
We’ll see if the threat results in better butt-in-seat syndrome this year; the 52nd Grand Bell Awards will be held on November 20.