Fanheart3 Awards: new collateral award at #Venezia76

Fanheart3 Awards are a new collateral award at #Venezia76, entirely dedicated to fan culture: a reflection on fans and their significance for cinema and VR

On November 2018 I was at a meeting with La Biennale when the topic of fan culture came up.

Fan culture is something … not very well known, even in areas that strongly refer to it, such as cinema and television.

While some productions – tv-series like Supernatural or Sherlock – have learnt to study their fanbase to develop contents and find inspirations (sometimes in a not so very good way: see the phenomenon of fanservice (1) ), there is still a lot of uncharged territory in relation to the fans.

An apparently surprising choice for fans’ interest: Chernobyl, popular HBO series

It’s a territory where stereotypes run free and where “to be a movie for fans” is the equivalent of being a mainstream movie – but in the worst sense – or being a product for the masses with fatuous content and a very “noisy” but empty structure.

Without getting too deep into fandom studies… a question, to start with: what is a fan?

Considering the approach made popular by Henry Jenkins (2), fans are not only “fan-atics” of celebrities. Rather, they are active members of a participatory culture (3) where they can cross the line between frution and production to become prosumers (producers + consumers) of media products, such as movies and TV-shows.

A (very simplicist) view on the difference between “divismo” (fanatism for celebrities, often confused with fans’ main object of interest) and fan culture. In fan culture, the interest of fans revolves not only around celebrities but mostly on the product they are fans of (movie, tv-show, and so on), on the community they belong to (the fandom) and on the artistic works that this community produces

At this regard, two practical considerations:

You are probably going to be surprised by the kind of movies that generate fandoms (4)

Yes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings: they are all well-known and incredible expensive sagas and the ones that fans love most (and for understandable reasons, if I may add).

But there are examples – and they are many – of films that few expected to capture the attention of this specific type of audience and yet they did and did it well.

They developed their own fandom and the simple fact that a fandom about them does exist brings consequences, both economic and cultural.

Some of these movies got their own sequels. Some have become cult movies instead of disappearing into the empty space where tons of movies go to die. Others have given a new life to their directors and to their cast or have inspired discussions on relevant topics in various public spheres.

A promotional image for Pitch Black by David Twohy. Born as a low-budget movie, it currently counts two sequels, a videgame, an anime and almost 800 fanfictions on AO3
Chiamami col tuo nome by Luca Guadagnino became one of the most discussed movies on Tumblr (6th place in 2018) and Timothée Chalamet the 5th most tagged actor in 2018 (source: fandometrics). A sequel has been announced and on AO3 counts almost 900 fanfictions
Eastern Promises by David Cronenberg. Russian mafia and the conflicting relationship between Kirill and Nikolai inspired fanarts, fanfictions and posts on Tumblr

Most movies that fans like have significant effects on our culture and society… and all because of the fans

Once again let’s mention Star Wars to begin with. It’s the movie born from and for fans par excellence. More than 40 years after that opening night that changed cinema as we know it, this saga is still affecting:

  • cinematic production
  • videogames
  • literature
  • merchandise in general
  • sports
  • fashion
  • language
  • religion

…and this just to mention some of the areas Star Wars has had an effect on.

It’s not the only movie to have done so, though. Many movies fans like do somehow tell us something about our society – even when they talk about it metaphorically – and many of them face a specific topic, even as a subtext: the need to change this society and make it better.

A scene from V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue

That’s the base of inspiration for “fan activism” (5): a powerful mechanism that actively influences society, which has been studied by academics and on which many non-profit organizations have learnt to work.

Scratch an activist and you’re apt to find a fan. It’s no mystery why: fandom provides a space to explore fabricated worlds that operate according to different norms, laws, and structures than those we experience in our “real” lives. Fandom also necessitates relationships with others: fellow fans with whom to share interests, develop networks and institutions, and create a common culture. This ability to imagine alternatives and build community, not coincidentally, is a basic prerequisite for political activism.

Steven Duncombe in “Imagining No-Place” (source)

Why fanheart3 awards

So, movies that are noticed by fans often have an impact that is not only economical, but touches the cultural, social, civil and artistic sphere, too.

Sometimes this impact is more significant than the one made by movies that explicitly aim to touch the cultural, social, civil and artistc spheres.

Fans, ethics, rights: Marvel changes the world (thanks to the fandom too)
Article by Agnese, fanheart3
English translation by Verdiana Rigoglioso

In the past three years, as fanheart3, my colleagues and I went to the Venice Film Festival not only to keep an eye on their interesting lineup, but also to discover, among the films in competitions, the ones that looked more promising for fans and better understand what kind of influences could come from movie festivals important as the one in Venice.

When we talk about “movies for fans” we are not reducing the inner quality of these movies, nor are we simply calling them “mainstream”. 
On the contrary, we want to emphasize that these movies have something more, a potential, which goes beyond even their artistic value. Some of these movies could be noticed beyond film festivals and the cinephile niche. Their characteristics transform them into potential cult movies and therefore allow them not only to influence the cinematographic production for years to come, but also to do something that beautiful but less fan-oriented films are unable to realize: to have a 360° impact on our culture and hopefully move younger people (and not only) to a better awareness of our society and of the challenges it’s facing.

From fanheart3 website (x)

On July, 10, the one we had named Fanheart3 Awards officially became a collateral award for Venezia76. A sign of the renewed attention that fans are calling to themselves and to their needs in relation to contents and productions.

Three awards will be assigned on September, 7 at Lido di Venezia:

agnesepietrobon fanheart3 awards golden clip

Golden Clip for best movie

to the film that has the highest potential to become a cult movie among fans

fanheart3 awards otp

Silver Ship for best OTP (One True Pairing)

to the couple composed of the two characters who have the most interesting dynamics among those from the movies in competition at the Fanheart3 Awards. The Silver Ship can be assigned to a male/female couple (het ship) or to a male/male or female/female couple (slash ship). The choice to assign this specific and peculiar award is supported by the strong relevance that “pairings” (platonic or sexual) have in fan culture

agnesepietrobon fanheart3 awards vr fan experience

VR Fan Experience

To the work in VR which, in terms of content, storytelling and construction, better responds to the needs of fans: emotionally, physically and mentally (sense of presence and experience conveyed by the work)

In relation to this third award, the possible relationship between fan culture and virtual reality has already been discussed in a previous article published on fanheart3 in Italian and on this website in in English.

You can find out who the jury is going to be at the official page of fanheart3 awards at fanheart3.

You can download Fanheart3 Awards press release at these links: italiano | english


fanservice: to add elements to a movie/book/tv-show/etc that are unnecessary to the storyline, but will make the fans happy (or so the producers think) (source: fanlore)


Henry Jenkins is Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California. He is the author or editor of twenty books on various aspects of media and popular culture.


Participatory culture is a term used for designating the involvement of users, audiences, consumers and fans in the creation of culture and content (Fuchs, 2013)


A fandom is a community of fans that revelves around the same product (a movie, a book, a tv-show, and so on)


To better understand the concept of fan activism, refer to academic studies such as “Experiencing fan activism: Understanding the power of fan activist organizations through members’ narratives” by Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Christine Weitbrecht, and Chris Tokuhama