Judging the judges…

It is quite a job to be judging someone or a film or a work of art; leave alone adjudicating one among many as the best. I have been involved in quite a few situations where either someone has judged my work or I have judged someone’s. 

Scanning other people’s work to evaluate it gives you a sense of power and whatever that comes with it. On the other hand, it is a bit unnerving to be subjecting oneself to the scrutiny of a group of people, especially when you know that people keep intact their personal biases in the process of judging.  

But yet, we can’t do without the process of judging the ‘other’ – the audience who pay money to watch the films, the jury at the film festival competitions, the critics who write reviews, committees appointed to approve or reject a film, the censor board, film teachers evaluating their students etc… 

Last week, I was in front of a group of people who were to judge and approve a rough cut of mine. After watching the rough cut, everyone came forth with their suggestions – you should have more close ups, there is a sense of detachment in your shot taking, you should have had some movement shots in the end, you should have shot the film in a different format etc… 

The group had really thought that the suggestions they were giving would improve the quality of the film. I should confess here that they were all doing so in good faith and were very tolerant towards me and my film. They were dutifully doing their job – the job of judging the film.  

But at the same time I can’t but help observe that some of the opinions expressed were personal in nature. They were mostly based on individual likes and dislikes, which were unconsciously being projected as THE objective reality. A different set of individuals would probably have loved the static shots and would not have missed the close ups. But this set of people did feel so.  

And I have to mention here that I have willfully subjected myself to their scrutiny, because if I did not do so, the film would have never been made in the first place. So in that sense, I have to choose their reality as THE absolute reality. 

I was once judging a drama competition. I had my own biases and take on old styled mythological plays. When I saw one, I instinctively gave it some pathetic marks and horrible remarks. My logic was, if I didn’t like them, they were universally bad, per say. 

Could I have judged the play in its own context? 

Is there something called ‘objective judgment’? 

If not, wouldn’t life be much easier if we had the modesty and courage to recognize, understand and acknowledge that the opinion that we are voicing are personal in nature and that they might not necessarily be the eternal truth, as we always seem to suggest? 

Am I willing to acknowledge the other point of view by not holding mine as the universal truth? 

The underlying issue here, I guess, is one of tolerance – the bane of our times.

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  1. When we judge in our personal capacities, I guess it harms no one but oneself. But in a professional capacity, it can make or mar someone else’s work. I think you are holding up well in the tolerance department, with your ‘judges’. Perhaps it would make you feel better to know that most of them are making the appropriate noises just to validate their being there in the first place.

    For instance, a similar bunch told me that I should have made a longer cut (by about 15-20 mins) so that they would have something to cut! This on a shoestring budget.

    Well, the worst is over. Look forward to seeing your films soon.

  2. Very well put Ram! As there is no pure ‘objective’ reality (except may be at the very mundane level) ‘judging or passing judgments’ often leads to the tyranny of the juror …more tolerance and greater empathy are perhaps the keys to bring the judge and the ‘accused’ finding a common ground.
    Anyway, forget your ‘judges’ and do your own thing within the given parameters and limits you’ve already accepted by having ‘willfully subjected myself to their scrutiny’ … Looking forward to a chance of seeing the film when complete.

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