How to spot a phony film festival

How to spot a phony film festival

Syndicates are spoofing the names of major film awards like the Cannes Film Festival by creating websites with similar sounding names to trick cinema hopefuls

GETTING nominated and winning awards in prestigious global film festivals is dream shared by filmmakers the world over. Unfortunately, there are those out there – scammers and criminal syndicates – with nefarious intent who are willing to exploit the hopes and dreams of thousands of aspiring artists by hiding behind the names of these festivals.


The Vibes’ Malay-language sister portal, Getaran, had previously received a press release stating that a local film had been nominated in the ‘thriller’ category at the Cannes World Film Festival, thus qualifying it to compete at the festival. However, after reviewing the posters and investigating the organisers, it was readily apparent that the festival in question was very much different from the world famous Cannes Film Festival and in fact bore no official connection.

Essentially, the possible win at the Cannes World Film Festival would have no bearing on its qualification to compete at the other more renowned festival, which is organised completely differently.

Getaran attempted to contact the director of the film to get confirmation and feedback from them, but has yet to receive a response.

After searching some of the official entry websites of the Cannes World Film Festival, the only other official events of the film festival are the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight), Semaine de la Critique (International Critics’ Week), and L’ACiD (Association of French Independent Film Distributors ) and The Marché du Film. The award won by the local film may in fact be real, just nowhere near as prestigious.

This is an issue that has been talked about since 2015.

There are syndicates who are spoofing the names of major awards such as the Cannes Film Festival by opening up websites for festival entrants using quasi-identical names. For example, a website called FilmFreeway allegedly received over 7,000 entries to compete in 42 world-renowned film festivals. They charged a fee of around RM450. In other cases, some have paid up to RM1,500 to participate.

Participants then are announced as the winners. When they travel to accept the trophies they won, the promised festival is suddenly nonexistent, along with the officials who managed their communications and the mock ‘festival fees’ the filmmakers paid for.

So how does one identify a fake film festival?

Joined sessions

Most fake film festivals (those that use similar names to actual festivals) will have two sessions, the festival and the screenplay. However, often they will combine these two sessions. As a result, you’d only have to submit entries on the official platform only.

Entry periods of over three months

Big festivals have a time limit for entries, for the simple reason that the organisers do not want the hassle of managing a large number of participants. Because of this, they’d usually open up their entries for three months, at most.

For fake film festivals, their entries are open for a long time so that they can cash in more money. The fake festival disguised as the Cannes Independent Film Festival opened its entries for up to a year.

Selling big city names

Every renowned city often has their own film festival. These syndicates will usually include these notable locations in their festival names to look prestigious. With this, many will be deceived and become victims. Make sure you double check that the festival is authentic and in fact, exists.

No competition history

The websites of syndicates usually claim that they have been holding the festivals for many years. You can check the prior list of winners and their award ceremonies. It will not be difficult to trace the history of the festival’s previous events if they are legitimate.

Excessive competition fees

It should be considered suspicious if the participation fee is charged too high. Most European film festivals do not charge a fee, especially for short films. Even if there is a fee collection, it’s usually inexpensive. But for film festivals in the United States, it may cost more. Even so, it’s unlikely that they would charge RM400 for a single entry.

Limitless awards

A legitimate film festival will have limited awards. These are given to the absolute best films for each competing category. On the other hand, a fake film festival will have a myriad of awards with an extensive list of winners.

No public screenings

In simple terms, if a festival has no public screenings, then it simply isn’t a festival. This is because public screenings are what filmmakers wait for the most, to invite as many people to watch their work.

Unclear victory criteria

Every festival will disclose the line-up of judges that will evaluate the filmmakers’ works. To choose a victor, they will give their reasons and criteria that influenced their decisions. Those festivals that only announce winners via email without any clear elaboration are likely bogus.

Therefore, the message to all filmmakers is to please be careful when sending in your entries. Make sure it is sent to official channels only.

source – The Vibes

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