Several years ago, when I was still a Bright Young Thing active in the world of film societies, I got to go to annual viewing sessions and award ceremonies for film societies in London at the NFT. As a member of the national exec, I got to crash the awards reception (not entirely wise considering what the British Film Institute tries to pass off as wine – ask
The person dishing out the awards varied from year to year: we’ve had Derek Malcolm of the Grauniad for a number of years (lovely chap, was nice to me even when I admitted that I’d never seen a Bunuel film), Martha Fiennes (director and sister of Joseph and Ralph – spot the family resemblance) and Stephen Frears (who I remember chiefly for his amazingly shabby trainers). A few years ago we had Alan Parker, newly appointed as the head of the moribund BFI, to dish out the awards (this was after Wilf Stephenson left the BFI, and before Alan Parker left to head up the shiny new Film Council).
The invites to the award reception went out to the representatives of the winning society (and any commended runners-up) in each category. For most categories, this meant one or two people from a society whose average member’s age was the far side of fifty (if not sixty in some societies), and most resolutely middle class and well behaved. For most categories, that is, except for the best student film society category. Student film societies tended to show up mob-handed (upwards of a dozen people per society was not unusual) and pile into the canapes and free drink as if they’ve not eaten in the last week (I’ve done this too many times myself, and then felt hungover and nauseous for the following day’s films, all four of them). It’s also a tradition of sorts for all the other student film societies to wander into the reception and see what they can blag.
So, one year Alan Parker presented the awards and attended the reception. Manchester University had won (go MUFS!), and had availed themselves heroically of the free wine before three of them decided to corner Parker and harangue him about his latest work (which had been Evita, if I remember correctly). They offered a lot of specific criticisms, but the general gist was that he should have kept making good films like Bugsy Malone, and that they expected him to offer some sort of defence of a film as bad as Evita, to which he hung his head and muttered something about Evita being pretty indefensible and that he ought to offer an apology for it.