A year ago, in partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Indiewire launched the Critics Academy at the Locarno International Film Festival. It was a new approach to stimulating the proverbial troubled marketplace for film criticism: Along with writing about new movies for a variety of publications and deepening their clips, participants are given the opportunity to engage in candid discussions with a broad range of critics and other members of the film community about the context of the profession and its continuing relevance.
The Critics Academy is tied to the guiding principles behind our Criticwire Network, which currently houses profiles for over 500 critics from around the world. Along with the Criticwire blog, which is edited by Sam Adams, the network showcases the wide range of voices that fuel intelligent and provocative conversations about movies on a daily basis. Modern film culture would be nothing without them; the Critics Academy is an insurance policy to make sure things stay that way.
While the prospects of the workshop were exciting to everyone involved, nobody — including those who organized the workshop and the selected eight participants from six countries — knew what to expect. What we found was the theory worked startlingly well in practice, from the stimulating discussions that opened the workshop to the rich and trenchant criticism that came out of it. Most crucially, several participants are now pursuing the profession based on the model that the workshop laid out.
The success of the first Critics Academy led to others. Last September, we held a workshop for New York-based critics at the New York Film Festival; the second edition is only a few months away. In January, we will work with the Sundance Institute on the first Critics Academy during the Sundance Film Festival, aided in part by the Roger Ebert Scholarship for Film Criticism.
But first things first: We’re gearing up for the second round of the Locarno Critics Academy, once again co-presented by the Locarno Film Festival, the Swiss Association of Film Journalists and the Film Society of Lincoln Center — addition to FRED radio, a new partner for the latest edition. After sifting through applications that have flooded in since the initial call several months ago, we’re delighted to announce this year’s finalists.
And once again, we were overwhelmed by the response. Over 130 candidates submitted applications from every continent on the globe. It was a wrenching experience to narrow down the list of the strongest applications to only eight, so we made room for a ninth (including two participants who were exclusively selected by the Swiss Association of Film Journalists and the Federal Office of Culture of Switzerland). Even so, many promising critics who didn’t make the cut will surely crop up elsewhere in the near future, perhaps even at other editions of the Critics Academy.
Our participants hail from eight different countries and educational backgrounds. Their interests range from classic Hollywood cinema to recent hits from the film festival circuit and bigger releases, ensuring that readers can expect an incredibly varied take on this year’s Locarno program.
Over the course of the 10-day festival, which begins August 7, the participants in the Critics Academy will write about various films and events on a daily basis. For its initial five days, they will meet regularly with me and Eugene Hernandez, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s director of digital strategy and a co-founder of Indiewire, to discuss challenges faced by working critics. They will also meet with other established critics and members of the international film community.
Look for more details about the participants in the Critics Academy in the coming weeks. For now, we are pleased to announce the names and nationalities for the nine finalists below.
James Berclaz-Lewis (Switzerland)
Ronan Doyle (Ireland)
Adriana Floridia (Canada)
Tara Karajica (Spain)
Laya Maheshwari (India)
Michael Pattison (U.K.)
Ingrid Raison (France)
Pablo Sulzer (Switzerland)
Katelyn Trott (USA)