Noone less than the Hungarian Béla Bartók once declared: "Competitions are for horses, not artists!" Using the example of the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, the documentary film "Why Competitions" looks into the question whether the competitive spirit that dominates music competitions is conformable with objective and ethical precepts, whether the prize winners actually benefit from their success and what happens to those who are often being stigmatized as "losers". This documentary film about the most important piano competition in the world was produced on the occasion of Frederic Chopins 200th birthday and does without a narrator. Instead it lets the participants and jury members have their say, some of who have learnt to keep their distance to their experiences, yet most of them are unable to forget and accept the fact they had to suffer injustice even after 60 years.
The film focuses on the scandal following the elimination of the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich who did not pass to the final round at the competition in 1980, which caused the world-famous Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich to leave the jury in protest, thanks to which Pogorelich became a star overnight. 1980 also marked a turning point in Polish history: A few months before the competition began the trade union "Solidarnosc" was established.
The film is divided in several chapters with each of them dealing with another competition year. In 1980 it was Pogorelich who took center stage, in 1975 the three Soviet competitors who instead of winning the competition only took 2nd, 3rd, and 4th prize were "penalized" by the Soviet Regime and thus prevented from making a career after the competition. The last chapter deals with the general question whether music competitions can be just and useful. Never before has such a wide range of world-famous musicians and eminent pedagogues spoken on this subject so candidly. With some ugly truths about corruption and bribery being revealed by these respectable persons, the question remains: Why do these people often chose to remain an integral part of the international competition circuit?
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