Reviewing a debut film

Reviewing a first-time director has been always an issue over the critics. It seems that due to the huge success that Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild had, that topic became interesting again. I recently had a similar debate on how legitimate is to write or express an honest, and probably negative, opinion on debut films by young directors. Personally I found that Beasts of the Southern Wild give a feeling of a sentimental manipulation that doesn’t coincide with a true and “pure” indie work and has striking resemblances with any other Hollywood product. So there is no real reason to protect a director just because this is his first work especially when his film is labeled as something completely different. Of course the low-budget factor and some interesting points in the screenplay could be some positive remarks. Also Zeitlin has the potential to become a great director in the near future since his knowledge and love on cinema is more than obvious. But good intentions don’t suffice in order to have a complete and remarkable result.

Luckily the same topic has been discussed at the festival panel “The Critical Eye” where renounced film critics had quite diverse views. You can read the whole report  at Criticwire.


  • March 5, 2013 01:04

    I read the report – I thought the notion of “reviewing a filmmaker” is odd. One reviews a film. What difference does it make if the filmmaker is a beginner? I don’t propose judging his subsequent oeuvre on the merits of this first entry, but the film as an independent entity. Shouldn’t that be a given?

    • Vassilis
      March 5, 2013 04:26

      Of course a film could and maybe should be considered as an independent entity and that is the main subject of a review. I could agree with them on the aspect that a first-timer could be sometimes more vulnerable compared to a more experienced director. But I don’t really think that this is a valid excuse. Since someone is presenting a final work to the audience this work must be reviewed as it is. Obviously some notes could be positive if a talent has been “foreseen” or the directorial presence and identity, even at such an early stage, are clear and noticeable. Losing the next big thing on one hand or crushing a beginner’s hopes on the other, are the two main fears of the film critics when they are dealing with a debut film.

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