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Montreal World Film Festival: 30 and still standing

Monday, July 10---It's been quite a year for the MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL!!! Not only has it emerged triumphant from a near-fatal loss of federal funding and the creation of a rival festival event last year, but it has confounded its critics by coming back stronger than ever in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary as North America's only FIAPF approved competition festival.

The rival event, funded by local media powerhouse Equipe Spectra and headed by former Berlinale topper Mortiz de Hadeln, was roundly criticized for its administrative gaffs, programming snafus and snubbing of local audiences. The plug was pulled on the event before the Festival was even finished!!

This represents a sweet victory for the always controversial but deeply committed Serge Losique, the Montreal World Film Festival's founder. While Toronto may have more Hollywood stars and Vancouver benefits from its strong ties to the Asian continent, Montreal has refined its reputation as a meeting place for film auteurs and loyal audiences....a North American festival with a European flair, much like the city that has been hosting its for three decades.

The Festival's unflagging commitment to international cinema is exemplified by it planned tribute to Bruno Ganz, one of Europe's most reasured actors. Ganz, who began his career in the films of New German Cinema auteurs Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Volker Schlondorff, has been a respected "actor's actor" for almost 40 years. The Swiss-born Ganz recently was hailed for his complex portrait of Adolf Hitler in the international arthouse hit THE DOWNFALL.

A four film mini-retrospective, chosen by Ganz himself, will be presented, as well as his latest film, VITUS, which will have its North American Premiere at the event. Ganz, who will be present in Montreal for the ceremonies, will receive a special Tribute Award.

The Festival also remains committed to showcasing new Canadian cinema, in particular films from local Quebec directors. While its full program is yet to be announced, the Festival has stated that for its Closing Night Film, it will present the feature debut of television director
Stéphane Lapointe, a new drama entitled LA VIE SECRÈTE DES GENS HEUREUX.

While its Film Market has morphed into a networking program with accompanying industry seminars, the Festival remains committed to helping its filmmakers and films find distribution beyond the festival circuit.

With this intention, the Festival recently announced a wide-ranging partnership with EchoStar Communications, one of the largest satellite television networks in the United States, with over 12 million subscribers.

EchoStar will promote its association with the Festival in a unique project that will see films presented at this year's event be eligible for satellite distribution via EchoStar's Dish Network. Producers will sign separate agreements directly with the company, which will use the reputation of the Festival to promote the international films to its subscriber base.

"We are committed to quality international films and a natural vehicle for that is the Montréal World Film Festival (MWFF)", according to Eric Sahl, EchoStar's
Senior VP of Programming. "It is exciting to work with such an organization and to present to our customers the best selections of the MWFF all year round.

"This announcement is a great day for world cinema", announced Festival President Serge Losique. We have practised cultural diversity for the last 30 years, but the films we present must go on living beyond the 12 days of the Festival." Further details on the joint venture will be announced in the coming weeks.

So, happy anniversary Montreal World Film Festival!! You've come a long way, fought against some formidable odds, and still seem to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Thirty could be your best year yet.

Sandy Mandelberger

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