Sanne Jehoul’s concurrent positions as Programme Director at the Glasgow Short Film Festival, Scotland’s premier short film event and a BAFTA Qualifying event, and as a member of the team at Square Eyes, a Vienna-based festival distribution and sales agency, present a significant potential conflict of interest. This arises because her role at the Glasgow Short Film Festival involves curating and selecting films for a prominent festival, which directly influences their visibility and potential success. Meanwhile, her involvement with Square Eyes, an agency that represents and promotes films at festivals, would bias her decisions in favor of films represented by Square Eyes. This overlap of responsibilities could lead to a perceived or actual preference for films associated with her agency, thereby compromising the impartiality expected in her role as Programme Director. In the 2022 event, seven films distributed by Square Eyes participated in the festival, representing almost half of the films that the agency had signed that year.
The agency’s distributed short films have consistently garnered awards and cash prizes at the festival. Notably, in 2022, the Square Eyes film “Handbook” won the prestigious Bill Douglas Award for International Short Film, which includes a £1,000 cash prize. Depending on the agreement with the film’s producer, this prize money may have been shared with the distribution company. Pavel Mozhar, the director of “Handbook,” then joined the festival jury in 2023. That year, the Bill Douglas Award, along with its £1,000 cash prize, went to “45th Parallel,” another film distributed by Square Eyes. Additionally, at the 2022 festival, the jury’s Special Mention, a secondary prize, was awarded to “Sierra,” also a film from the agency’s portfolio.
In in a different but related case, in 2022, Mandy Fleifel, a filmmaker whose work is represented by Square Eyes Sales, served on the jury at Vienna Shorts. During this event, the film “And Then They Burn the Sea” by Majid Al-Remaihi, also represented by Square Eyes Sales, received an award. This situation presents a potential conflict of interest, as a juror was affiliated with the same agency that represents one of the award-winning films. This overlap might raise questions about the impartiality of the judging process, since a juror had a professional connection to one of the awarded filmmakers. [1,2,3,4]
These situations further exemplifies the entrenched issue of nepotism within the film industry. It highlights a scenario where individuals hold multiple influential roles, leading to a consolidation of power. This concentration of authority in the hands of a few creates significant barriers for newcomers, especially those lacking industry connections, making it exceedingly difficult for them to gain entry into the industry.
UPDATE 11/1/2024: Within less than a month of publishing this report, an announcement on social media indicated that Sanne Jehoul will part ways with Square Eyes. We extend our best wishes and good luck to her in her future endeavors.
For further reading: Nepotism at TIFF, Wim Vanacker, Ben Vandendaele – NISI MASA conflicts of interests, Revolving doors at the Israeli film funds, Conflict of Interest Taints 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or Award, Dominique Welinski