These are my personal thoughts, not representative of the competition, etc etc etc:
When I was Chch manager I didn't do what AJ did. Partially because of the insane time commitment required (I literally don't know how AJ manages it), but also because the moment you start publicly discussing the judging decisions, that immediately opens them up for debate and discussion. In my experience once that door opens, it's almost impossible to shut it. It's just cleaner to go "the judging decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into" than to start getting squirrelly with explanations. Then after that it's on a case by case basis.
It's hard to make statements as an individual judge/manager when the judging panel collectively might have a vastly different opinion to you. God knows some of my favourites missed out on finals placings over the years. We did get quotes from judges a couple times for when awards were given out, but they ended up creating more problems than they solved - basically, people got angrier about the explanations than they did about the decisions themselves. Easier to nitpick when you have nits to, er, pick.
There's also the issue of if you get too specific with your feedback, teams can sometimes take that to heart in the wrong way and start trying to match it point-for-point. Anything from the mouth of the manager is read as gospel by a lot of teams (particularly emerging ones), and I always tried to err on the side of not pointing teams in any particular direction, lest I stifle creativity or contribute to creating some sort of monoculture within the comp. The first year I ran the competition I screened the previous year's winner while we were waiting for launch, and I ended up getting several very similar films from teams that obviously thought it was some sort of guaranteed template for success.
Ultimately the sad truth of the matter is, it makes no difference how well you explain the judging decisions - many of the people demanding those explanations will usually reject anything you say anyway. They'll believe whatever conspiracy theories they want to believe. It's often driven by dismay that their team's film didn't do better, and ultimately nothing's going to heal that wound except time and reflection. Obviously some teams will be a bit more genuine, but you can't rely on it. Finals-night bitterness is a hell of a drug. I know; I've been on it many times myself.
Since I've been back in competition, I've certainly had issues with the judging, but I've also seen behind the curtain enough to know that the judges very rarely agree on their favourite films, and it's all subjective anyway, so the trick - as T.E. Lawrence would say - is not minding that it hurts. Shrug it off, make a film you think is better next time, and try to have fun.
In summary: feedback would be great if we could rely on people's ability to hear and process feedback and respond maturely. Sadly, that's one of the toughest, rarest, and most complex skills in the creative world (I know I could be better at it), and experience has taught me, at least, that it's best to limit feedback to "these films got into the finals, and these others didn't; look closely and draw your own conclusions."
Senior Contributor at Birth.Movies.Death
2020 Lockdown - "The Quiet Moon" - Science Fiction
2019 - "Schism" - Science Fiction (National finalist; Chch 3rd place + Best Cinematography; Toronto After Dark and Morbido Fest 2019, Chattanooga Film Fest 2020)
2018 - "Utka" - Wish (National finalist; Chch winner + Best Script + Best Animation; Kiev International Short Film Festival 2019 and Abycinitos 2020)
2011-2017 - Christchurch 48HOURS City Manager
2010 - "I Am Single" - Rom-Com (Chch finalist + Best Art Direction)
2009 - "New Fish" - Musical (National runner-up + Best Score, Chch winner)
2008 - "Übermensch" - Horror (Chch finalist)
2007 - "Pain Killer: The Sick Sense" - Superhero (Chch finalist)
ALSO - "As Of Yet Unfinished" (2012, unofficial); "The Contender" (2010, finals intro)