Pseudo-festival, pseudo-awards …
Article published on 8 May 2011

by Irna

The website of Professor Debertolis (it) of the ‘SB Research Group’ (see here for information about this group) informs us that a film on the subject of the Visoko ‘pyramids’ was recently screened (bs) in Sarajevo to an audience that included the director and Mr. Osmanagic [1]. Not having seen this film, I cannot judge its content. However, I did notice one small and rather bizarre detail in the film’s promotional material. In January 2011, it did indeed win an award, the ‘California Film Daimond [sic] Award’, according to the announcement on the production company site. Copies of the details of this award (usually including the same misspelling!) have appeared on all the sites that were advertising one or other of the screenings, although the degree of hyperbole varies. On the Foundation site (bs), for example, the prize is described as “one of the most coveted awards for a documentary”, while Professor Debertolis’ site (it) states that it is “the equivalent of an Oscar for Best Documentary” (“Il film è stato premiato con il California Diamond Award, che è una specie di Oscar per i documentari”).

As far as the comparison with “an Oscar” goes, a modest amount of subject-based research on the “prestigious prizes” of the ‘California Film Awards’ reveals some surprises. Let’s start by taking a look at some of these sites: 
California Film Awards 
Alaska International Film Awards 
Oregon Film Awards 
Colorado Film Festival 
Mountain Film Awards 
Honolulu Film Awards 
Yosemite Film Festival ...

Doesn’t it strike you that there is more than a little family resemblance between the sites of these different ‘festivals’? And you wouldn’t be wrong: all these festivals and their ‘prestigious awards’ have more in common than a mere similarity of template design.
  the jury that awards the ‘rewards’ is never identified, making it impossible to find out who its members are; 
  none of these ‘festivals’ ever organizes any public screenings; 
  while posing as established festivals (“Each year, the Yosemite Film Festival recognizes excellence in filmmaking”“The Oregon Film Awards® are presented each year in several categories” ...), none of them has been running for longer than a year or two; 
  all of them hand out a very large number of awards with grandiloquent names: ‘Grand Jury Award’, ‘Northern Lights Emerging Talent Award’, ‘Sierra Nevada Awards’, ‘Silver Sierra Awards’, ‘Gold Kahuna Awards’, ‘Diamond’, ‘Platinum’, ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’ ... Awards; 
  the addresses associated with the domain names all seem to consist solely of Post Office boxes; 
  all these sites are hosted by Rackspace Hosting, either in San Antonio or Chicago ...

We could go on finding more examples of similarities between these sites. The strategy is always the same: the director or screenwriter who is applying has to pay an entrance fee, somewhere between $30 to $55 (so on a par with the fees charged by relatively well known independent festivals such as the Tribeca Film Festival or the Sundance Festival ...). Cassettes or DVDs are of course sent at the producers’ expense (with a warning that the films submitted will not be returned), are viewed (or not?) by no one knows whom, after which the winners of the competition (?) are announced via the “Internet and international press releases” [2]. If they are lucky, which isn’t always the case (“AIFA may also elect, at its sole discretion, to hold a formal Awards Ceremony in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest”), the prizewinners will be invited to a grand evening gala awards ceremony ... at their expense! So, in January 2011, recipients of the ‘California Film Awards’ prizes were able to tuck into a gala banquet in return for the modest sum of $75 (only one discount per winning film), as against $95 for guests and non-prizewinners ...

The reader will speedily have cottoned on to the fact that this operation is little short of a scam, enabling the organizer (probably the same group of people behind all the festivals, given the similarity of technique) to collect registration fees with minimal outlay, given that even the awards ceremony is paid for by the victims ... victims who are unlikely to protest. What director would be prepared to acknowledge that his magnificent ’Gold Award’ or ’Diamond Award’ is totally bogus? And it seems, moreoever, that the organizer or organizers has (or have) little hesitation in trying to silence the few people who expose their scam by threatening lawsuits for defamation ...

In short, as far as the subjects of the documentary about the "pyramids" is concerned, this story does not detract from the (possible) quality of the film. But it reveals – yet again – the reliability and methodology of Mr. Osmanagic and his cohorts. We won’t blame them for not having checked the precise nature of the award, but was it really necessary to add the adjective ’prestigious’ and compare it to an Oscar?