International producers' association FIAPF has issued a statement in response to criticisms of its film festival accreditation system that were made in a public forum at the recent Shanghai International Film Festival.

During a summit of film festival chiefs, Sundance director Geoffrey Gilmore accused FIAPF of perpetuating mediocrity with its film festival policy, which is widely seen as a ranking system for international film festivals.

'We wish to express our surprise and disappointment at Sundance director Geoffrey Gilmore's declarations about FIAPF's policy for international film festivals as reported by media,' FIAPF said in the statement.

'Geoffrey Gilmore bases all his criticisms on an alleged 'rating' system carried out by FIAPF: the current accreditation system definitively does not aim at ranking international film festivals. Accredited film festivals are categorised depending on their programming profile, not through some unilateral and subjective criteria about what constitutes quality.'

The statement also responded to Gilmore's comments that 'for many years neither Sundance nor Toronto were FIAPF accredited'.

'The fact is that Toronto, a world class and widely attended event, has been accredited by FIAPF since 1991,' the statement continues. 'Sundance under Mr Gilmore's leadership consistently has refused our invitation to become similarly accredited.'

'Being accredited simply means that the international festival commits itself to implementing standards defined by FIAPF members as suppliers of films, such as clear procedures for submission and competition, strong concern regarding the security of screeners, prints and piracy in theatres.'

Gilmore's comments and FIAPF's response highlight a long-running debate about the accreditation systemwhich endorses festivals in four categories: competitive feature film festivals, competitive specialised feature film festivals, non-competitive feature film festivals and documentary and short film festivals.

The first two categories are commonly referred to as the 'A-list' and 'B-list' and are sometimes used as such by film festivals in their marketing efforts. However, the classification has raised eyebrows because its places smaller and less established events such as Shanghai in the same league as Cannes and Venice, among the 12 festivals in the first category.

The second category, or 'competitive specialised' section, endorses 26 film festivals, including the Pusan International Film Festival, which is widely regarded as Asia's most influential film festival and more prestigious than Shanghai.

However, FIAPF president Andres Vicente Gomez also defended the organisation's decision to include Shanghai in the first category:

'Considering on one hand that piracy in China is still a very critical concern for the film industry, and on the other hand, the current access market restriction for foreign movies, FIAPF strongly believes in the role of the Shanghai International Film Festival. This event is one of the rare legitimate windows to offer and to promote a large selection of foreign movies to a numerous local audience with optimum screening conditions.'

In addition to regulating film festivals, FIAPF has a mandate to represent the economic, legal and regulatory interests of film and TV production industries worldwide. Its membership includes 26 producers organisations in 23 countries.