Oscar eligibility

We get experts to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic.

Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg opposed the idea of considering streamlining films like the ones on Netflix at the Oscars. He felt that it would prompt directors to making films for a TV format and not the efforts otherwise needed for an Oscar. They could at best be considered for a Grammy, Spielberg said.

We ask filmmakers, producers and critics their take on this, about considering streamlining films at Oscars.

‘One medium can’t replace another’
Sharada Ramanathan, filmmaker

I do agree with him because when there were no cinemas and there was only theatre, and when cinema came, people said that cinemas would replace theatre, in some way it did happen but also didn't in the sense that the resources for theatre have shrunk but the audience interest has not. So every time Amir Raza Hussain picks up a play people throng the theatre. The recent theatre production, Mughal-e-Azam too was a huge hit. So I don't think that one medium can replace another as each medium has a different visual language and thought processes. I think the whole concept of web-series is an experiment and we have to wait and see exactly what kind of experience it turns out to be because the films made for a cinema hall is for people to get a cinematic experience in a sense of community viewing. But if you are going to put everything on the web you will never be able to feel the excitement of a 'first day first show'. We should remain as a world of multiple experiences. A 30 minute film is different from a 5 minute short film which is again different from a 2 hour film and thus the experiences are different as well. I think it would be too premature to assume that we can make two experiences into one. It's too early to even think of something like that. The producers of the world should keep them separate and treat them as different experiences. Everything needs to be time tested. What we often call ‘old-school’ is actually not old but time tested. Spielberg is talking about a time tested process. Twenty years from now maybe we’ll see how it goes but for now I agree with him.

‘I support spielberg’s views, everyone should follow guidelines’
CV Reddy, jury chairman for India's official entry for Oscars

I support Steven Spielberg’s views. It’s not right to consider a movie made for online viewership and released on Digital platform for Oscars. To get eligible for the Academy Awards, filmmakers are releasing their movie in very less number of theatres — this practise is wrong. If you follow and promote this kind of practice, many others would come forward and start sending their films released on a digital platform to the Oscar in the same manner. To represent India at the Oscars in the Foreign Language category, they clearly set guidelines, which says that the film should be censored in India. Over here, the film doesn’t have to release in theatre, but would need a censor certificate. When we picked the film Newton for the Oscars, it had not released in theatres. There are certain guidelines and everyone should follow them as the committee can’t watch every film that comes to them.

‘Storytelling should’nt be weighed down by platform’
Raja Sen, Film Critic

It is time we considered that the big screen is not as big and the small screen is far from small. Storytelling should not be weighed down by platform, and, contrary to what Mr Spielberg feels, I believe comparisons between film and television will benefit both. Having the Oscars open up for films created for non-theatrical release is the only way forward, since a theatrical run will become increasingly arbitrary as formats increase, and film-only awards will look like curios, becoming niche awards like the Tony Awards are for theatre instead of the Oscars perched on the top of popular culture. It will also keep both sides on their toes. Film will be forced to be more creatively liberated, and TV will be forced to be more cinematic. Everyone will have to up their game, and this can only benefit tellers and listeners of stories.

Prakash Bare, Actor-producer
This comment highlights a big problem we are facing. The big buck Hollywood movies are coming to eat our dinner. It is basically the majority tastes being imposed on minority audiences. It’s nothing but media fascism. The internet is a much more democratic space. Net can accommodate contents that are of interest to minority audience. Anyone can watch them anytime from anywhere in the world. When Spielberg says only studio made films dominating the theaters around the world can compete at the Oscars, he is endorsing the kind of fascism you see in the world around you. If you extend Spielberg’s logic to our cinema, small budget films that struggle to get theaters won’t be able to compete for the state awards, in the name of formats. It is similar to the criteria set by KSFDC that films made in a certain format are not eligible for the subsidies — trying to segregate them by format. I do not agree to Spielberg’s comment.

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