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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:13 GMT
'Pulitzer' film prize planned
Russell Crowe in Gladiator
Gladiator is considered to be among the best films of 2000
The American Film Institute is to create a new film award modelled on the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes for literature and journalism.

The AFI will name the best 10 American films every year, starting with 2000, as well as the best five film moments of the year.

The film body wants to create a compendium of the best of American cinema over the next century.

Almost Famous
Almost Famous was acclaimed by the US critics
The first winners of the AFI prize will be announced in January.

The films, which will be listed in no order, will be chosen by a panel of journalists, academics, and industry professionals, similar in make-up to the Pulitzer Prize jury.

The names of the jury members are expected to be kept secret to prevent the intense lobbying that surrounds the Oscars.

The plan is to issue such a list every year of the 21st century to build a list of the best and most important examples of American film-making, said Jean Picker Firstenberg, the institute's director.

"We realised that we ought to start this new century with a new kind of record, an ongoing annual history of what has occurred in motion pictures" she added.

She said the awards would be presented not to an individual director or producer but to the entire creative team.

Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts gave a strong performance in Erin Brokovich
Unfortunately for the AFI, it is widely acknowledged that few quality films have been released in the last 12 months.

"It would have been nice to have started something like this in a great movie year, like 1968 or 1939," said Peter Bart, editor of trade newspaper Variety.

He added: "The Oscars and the other awards are too dominated by the major Hollywood forces.

"It seems to me that the real test of this new effort will be what group of pictures they come up with - will they reach beyond the big Oscar contenders to honour some of the smaller but ultimately more important films that the Oscars might overlook?"

America has a strong tradition of independent film making outside the major Hollywood studios, yet blockbusters such as Gladiator and Erin Brokovich and the more low-key Almost Famous are considered to be among the best films of the last year.

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