The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Hfpa) is the little engine that could. Founded 65 years ago by a small group of foreign correspondents, the not-for-profit has gone from strength to strength.

Its annual awards show, the Golden Globes, is now a household name, its members reach 250 million readers worldwide, and its charitable donations top $1.2m annually.

These days, members of the Hfpa enjoy year-round access to talent via press junkets and some 300 press screenings annually, enabling them to better complete their jobs. But when the Hfpa was launched in 1943 it was another story altogether.

While the appetite for filmed entertainment was at an all-time high during World War Two, international box office was just a drop in the ocean. Foreign reporters seeking better access to contacts decided to join forces, and the Hfpa was born.


Success breeds criticism

Today, despite the importance of international box-office revenues, the group still has its struggles. The Hfpa has been regularly criticised for conducting its voting in public and that its 90-odd members represent many marginal outlets.

Its awards’ categories, meanwhile, are nothing short of controversial. Consider last year when Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima was excluded from the best picture race and took home best foreign film instead.

‘The main function of the organisation is to create work for its members,’ says president Jorge Camara, who joined in 1965. ‘Maybe these criticisms are xenophobia. Maybe there’s some jealousy over our awards getting so big in Hollywood.’

‘A lot of other awards compare themselves to the Golden Globes,’ says one veteran publicist in defence of the Hfpa. ‘That shows you how successful they have become. I’m a big fan.’

Beyond helping its members, the Hfpa has an extensive outreach programme, providing scholarships, donating to film schools and charities, and working on film preservation.

Current restorations include Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes, which Camara hopes will be at Cannes next year, and Laurence Olivier’s Richard III.

In Hollywood proper, however, the group is subject to mixed reviews. ‘The Hfpa has never been taken seriously,’ says one veteran publicist. ‘It’s not their fault in the sense that we know them and that some are competent and some aren’t,’ he says.

‘It is their fault for conducting their voting in public, and having a dozen photo journalists (as members), for example. How can they vote for best picture’ The feeling is that Hfpa journalists haven’t earned their place.’

Another publicist counters: ‘They know their stuff, and they show up in much greater numbers than their domestic counterparts.’

The marketing power of the Golden Globes themselves is something nobody disputes, especially since the event is shown primetime on NBC.

‘The Globes are certainly important to us,’ says one studio executive. ‘But they have more relevance domestically than at the international box office.’

‘They are great at predicting the Oscar best picture winner and an important part of a film’s campaign,’ says another. ‘But nobody gets work from winning a Globe.’

In recent years, with winners like the Palestinian feature Paradise Now - which picked up the best foreign-language film prize in 2006 - the Hfpa is often applauded for thinking outside the box.

‘The Hfpa brings attention to films and TV shows that otherwise wouldn’t get recognised,’ says one indie publicist. ‘Voting Paradise Now best foreign-language film was a really gutsy move. They have a different sensibility.’


Media professionalism

Future plans for the organisation include increasing membership but changes are afoot to the Globes’ eligibility rules.

Two new members were added this year: Luca Celada for Italy’s Il Manifesto, and Herve Tropea for France’s Tele-Loisirs. Other outlets served by Hfpa members include the Daily Telegraph in the UK; Le Figaro in France; L’Espresso in Italy; Vogue in Germany; the China Times; and the pan-Arabic magazine Kul Al Osra. Screen International’s US editor, Mike Goodridge is the Hfpa’s vice-president.

‘I have worked for the domestic and the international press,’ says Camara. ‘Our members are at least as professional as their domestic counterparts and sometimes more so. There are different kinds of professionalism.’


Liza Foreman profiles three Hfpa members



Before switching to the Hollywood beat, Italy’s Silvia Bizio reported on politics and science for a number of Italian newspapers. She now works for Italian daily La Repubblica and other titles from the L’Espresso Group. ‘Before I joined the Hfpa, I had to go out and get every single interview,’ she says. ‘They make our lives so much easier. But it requires a big participation on our part.’

Moving to Los Angeles to do a PhD at Ucla in sociology and mass communications in 1976, Bizio has retained her roots in political activism through running the humanitarian organisation, The Spiral Foundation. She indulges her love for cinema as the founder of Los Angeles’ Italian screenings series, Cinema Italian Style, run with Cinecitta Holdings and the LA Cinematheque.



A member of the Hfpa for six years, Germany’s Anke Hofmann is the Hollywood correspondent for TV Digital, a bi-weekly publication serving two million readers.

Hofmann has also contributed to Vanity Fair Germany, among other publications. As an Hfpa member, Hofmann attends regular press screenings and conferences, helps organise the Golden Globes, and sits on the Hfpa’s board of directors.

Hofmann first became associated with the Hfpa volunteering through a member friend 14 years ago. ‘It was really like a mom and pop shop back then,’ she says. ‘Hollywood was also different. Some of the old timers would get calls from actors inviting them up to their houses. Now it’s also a business. We do our part and the actors do theirs.’



The only Filipino member of the Hfpa in its history, Ruben Nepales joined in 1994 and files three weekly film columns to the Filipino Daily Inquirer, the country’s number one newspaper.

‘It’s pretty exciting almost every day,’ says Nepales. ‘Today I was supposed to interview Anthony Hopkins but he had to cancel because of the Malibu fires.’ As an Hfpa member, Nepales attends conferences and press junkets, and helps out at the Golden Globes on seating guests and arrivals.

‘You get an insight into the politics, who has to sit where,’ he says.

And what he most likes about the Hfpa: ‘That they transcribe all the interviews. You don’t know how much of a difference that makes.’